Happy May Day: What You Should Know
I worked for the AFL-CIO, and learned a lot about labor movements. May Day, although not big in the US, is an important day for the labor movement.
- •I'm a nutshell, May Day celebrates workers throughout the world.
- •During the late 1800's labor movements were made up largely of anarchists and socialists looking to remove any hierarchy from the workplace, and to fight for things such as an 8 hour work day. This was before anarchy became associated with Hot Topic and socialism became a dirty word to say out loud.
- •On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history
- •In Chicago, which was the epicenter, 40,000 people walked off their jobs and became beloved by the working class.
- •After a few days, 100,000 had walked off and were protesting and utilizing direct action peacefully.
- •After harassment by Pinkerton Detectives (piece of shit strike breakers extraordinaire), strikers ended up getting beaten by clubs and so they began to throw rocks at the detectives and police.
- •The police fired into the crowd, killing two people and wounding dozens.
- •A public meeting was called by the anarchists in Haymarket Square to talk about police brutality. Due to short notice and bad weather only 3,000 attended, including the mayor of Chicago, who said that speaker August Spies had "no suggestion... for immediate use of force or violence toward any person..."
- •As the meeting went on two detectives ran to tell the police the speaker was using inflammatory language. As the police went to disperse the crowd, someone threw a firebomb into the ranks of police.
- •No one knows who threw the bomb, but it could have been an anarchist or it could have been an agent provocateur from the police.
- •The police fired into the crowd, killing and wounding many civilians. Only one police life was attributed to the bomb, and although another seven died this was attributed to indiscriminate fire on behalf of the police.
- •Eight anarchists - Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg - were arrested and convicted of murder, though only three were even present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing occurred.
- •The jury in their trial was comprised of business leaders in a gross mockery of justice similar to the Sacco-Vanzetti case. The entire world watched as these eight organizers were convicted, not for their actions, of which all of were innocent, but for their political and social beliefs.
- •On November 11, 1887, after many failed appeals, Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fisher were hanged.
- •Today, thousands of activists embrace the ideals of the Haymarket Martyrs and those who established May Day as an International Workers' Day. May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more, but rarely is it recognized in this country where it began.
- •So take some time today to remember, or learn about, our radical roots and thank a union member for their contribution to things we take for granted now- safe workplaces, an eight hour workday, and better rights for workers in every industry.