Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day

Avanti popolo, alla riscossa
Bandiera rossa, bandiera rossa
Avanti popolo, alla riscossa
Bandiera rossa trionferà

Bandiera rossa trionferà
Bandiera rossa trionferà
Bandiera rossa trionferà
Evviva la pace e libertà *
Many working agreements have similar language to “eight hours shall be the normal working day.” This has not always been true. Many martyrs were made for advocating that idea. The welshman Robert Owen proposed the slogan, Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest, in 1817. It had became a chief demand of labor. Ship carpenters in Boston had it in 1842, the building trades in New York City in 1872, federal employees, theoretically, in 1868, an extremely weak law in 1867 was passed in Illinois in1867 to that purpose. There were Eight Hour Leagues across the country.

The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, soon to be the A. F. of L., in 1884 pushed for an eight hour work day. A parade and strike would be organised for the 1st of May 1886 centered in Chicago, Illinois, but nationwide. The strike would last till that demand was met. The moneyed interests were alarmed. The newspapers were in league with the money. The police were also on board to crush such a thing. The establishment had their solidarity with all the power of the state and their own full coffers.

That first May Day parade in Chicago had 80,000. Others marched in Cincinnati, New York and elsewhere. At a demonstration and lockout at the McCormick Reaper†, on the 3rd, the police fired into the crowd and people were killed. The next day, the 4th of May, at Haymarket Square a bomb was thrown. A policeman was killed by the bomb. Other police were shot by police as they fired into the crowd. The crackdown by the state went full force in Chicago and nationwide. It ended with show trials and hangings. Worldwide protest was ignored. Men were hanged for rioting, who were, not present at the riot.

At an international labor conference, the Second Internationale in Paris, May Day was adopted as a day of commemoration. Beginning in 1890, the world recognised Labor Day as May 1. In the United States and Canada a day at the end of summer is marked, which began in New York City as an annual celebration in 1882. It is now not much more than a three day weekend.

We have the eight hour day, minimum wage and some other guarantees, because of Franklin Roosevelt and the heavily Democratic Congress of 1938 (Fair Labor Standards Act). It was one of the many programmes that came from the New Deal, that made life livable in this country; one of the things the moneyed interests and their lackeys in the Republican party have continually tried to strip from us. Unfortunately, we have members in union leadership, and in the ranks, that have given in to employers demands and requests that have weakened and betrayed that commitment. Too many men have died, had their heads cracked and bodies jailed so that men, women and children can have an eight hour day instead of a ten, eleven, twelve or sixteen. The May Day parade is a pure representation of the First Amendment.
* The original, though often and widely adapted, lyrics were written by Carlo Tuzzi, in 1908, as a workers
anthem. It has been used as a marching song, particularly by anti-fascists, whom, sometimes, interposed a ribald insult to Mussolini.
†A strike for an eight hour day was held there 1 May 1867. McCormick also owned the Chicago Times paper. He was a very tight fisted robber baron, who cut wages and always wanted more gain. He had come to Chicago early, and became a partner with the city’s first mayor, Wm. Ogden, and his money. McCormick had the largest factory in town and it was the first to be rebuilt after the fire of ’71. The Chicago police, Pinkerton agency thugs, national guard and federal troops were engaged to control, kill and battle workers several times in the city in the 19th century. McCormick reaper became International Harvester in 1902.

noto bene: May Day had previously been a rustic celebration.

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