Cartoon: Unions Have Always Done The Impossible!

The last week has been kind of a bummer for me, workwise – I pulled a muscle in my thumb. (Who even knew that was a thing?) Afraid of making it worse, I decided not to draw and to minimize typing until my thumb was better.

And, well, it’s not completely better yet, but it’s mostly better, so here we are. I’m going to try returning to drawing later today, but limit how much time I spend on it until after my thumb quits hurting.

Work aside, our household held a Seder, and that was nice as always. We had a new 20ish friend join us, and the 15ish year old insisted that new friend should read the four questions. (In my day, we sang the four questions in Hebrew. Kids today have it so easy!)

This cartoon was written as a reminder to myself. Very often, I mentally dismiss ideas like a normalized four-day work week, or universal basic income, not because I think they’re economically impossible to pull off, but because I just can’t imagine progressives making advances that big.

It’s useful to remind myself that even many ideas that are so normalized that I don’t even think of them as ideas – like weekends – would have once seemed like wild, impossible ideas.

This cartoon, which was done for Dollars and Sense Magazine’s annual labor issue, naturally focuses on labor issues. But it’s not just labor. If you had asked me in the eighties, I would have told you that I loved the idea of legally recognized same-sex marriage but it wouldn’t happen in my lifetime. If you had opened a newspaper to the help wanted section in the 1950s, the jobs would have been divided into “women’s jobs” and “men’s jobs” sections, and few people expected that to change.

Progress can happen even when it seems impossible. That’s good to remember.

I’m pretty pleased with the art for this one. Every individual panel looks good to me (although panel two is my favorite). The different settings and historical costumes were fun.

I’ve just now noticed that panel three is odd, and now that I’ve noticed I can’t unsee it. Because although the art looks good by itself, the proportions of the characters in that panel are wildly different from the bighead proportions of the characters in the rest of the cartoon.

I just spent a minute considering redrawing panel three, but I decided that with each individual panel being a separate vignette, having the proportions be different in that panel probably won’t damage anyone’s reading experience. (And anyway, my thumb hurts. :-p )


This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows a different scene with different characters.


On a city sidewalk, a line of workers is standing. They are wearing identical t-shirts with a drawing of a coffee mug surrounded by a circle, and lettering in the circle says “Baristas United.” One of the workers holds up a sign that says “NO JUSTICE NO COFFEE.”

Two workers talk; the first worker is excited and grinner, spreading her arms in the air, and the second worker (who is holding the sign) is a bit annoyed and cynical.

FIRST WORKER: If workers all pull together, we can accomplish so much! Living wages! Four day work weeks! Universal basic income!

SECOND WORKER: Forget it! It’ll never happen!


A large caption at the top of the panel says 1950.

We are in a mine. Mine cart tracks are on the ground, disappearing into a tunnel in the background. It’s dim here, other than the lights attached to the fronts of the miners’ hats.

Two miners, one carrying a bucket of stones, the other holding a shovel, are talking as they examine the aftermath of a rock collapse.

FIRST WORKER: Worker safety laws!

SECOND WORKER: Forget it! It’ll never happen!


A large caption at the top of the panel says 1930.

Two women wearing old-fashioned looking blouses are seated at the same long table. In front of each woman is a sewing machine; each of them are working on sewing a piece. They both have long hair done up in buns. A high pile of folded clothe is on the table in front of them. They look hot and sweaty.

FIRST WORKER: We could abolish child labor!

SECOND WORKER: Forget it! It’ll never happen!


A large caption at the top of the panel says 1890.

Two farm workers with broad-brimmed hats are talking to each other. They’re wearing plain, rough-but-sturdy-looking clothing. The first worker is holding up a palm in the air in front of her, “I have a vision” style. The second worker is making a dismissive gesture. There is a wheelbarrow and straw baskets, all filled with some sort of unspecifically drawn picked vegetation.

FIRST WORKER: Eight hour days! Two days off every week!

SECOND WORKER: Forget it! It’ll never happen!


“Chicken fat” is an old-fashioned cartoonist expression for unimportant but hopefully amusing details in a cartoon.

In panel one, a piece of paper littering the ground says “I’m listening to ‘Doppleganger’ as I draw this cartoon.” (And I was! It’s a recent book by Naomi Klein. I enjoyed it.)

In panel two, if you look along the bottom edge of the panel, you can see the feet of an unfortunate minor sticking out from under the rock pile.

And in panel four, the big straw bag on the ground in front of the first worker has the head of a rather bewildered looking bunny sticking out of it.

Unions Have Always Done The Impossible | Patreon

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3 Responses to Cartoon: Unions Have Always Done The Impossible!

  1. 1
    Dianne says:

    Thank you for the reminder that it has never been easy but always been worth it.

    I live two blocks from Columbia. The last few weeks have been a thing. Last night the police arrested hundreds of people, some of which had not committed or even been accused of anything resembling a crime. The police threw several of the students down the stairs and threw metal barricades at others. If no one’s dead, it’s not the police’s fault.

    Sorry, that last paragraph was off topic. I will remove if the consensus is that I should remove.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    No need to remove it!

  3. 3
    Jacqueline Squid Onassis says:

    I used to live 2 blocks from Columbia. I always loved the open campus. In those days, of course, the police had plenty of other folks in the neighborhood to beat on so the campus was pretty placid.

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