Last year, some history was posted at the AFL-CIO website. Although
well corroborated with contemporary eye-witness accounts and numerous
legal documents, it is not adequately taught in our schools, and each
year reporters and self styled "experts" get it wrong. This year, it is
time to set all the details straight and set the stage for the proper
celebration workers should enjoy in the US, in concert with their
fellows who celebrate this holiday, founded in the US, every year.
orking people with a sense of history who have pride in the country
they built with their labor often search for Labor Day like a missing
tooth: satisfaction is not found at the picnics at the close of summer
Here's an excerpt from the AFL-CIO blog posted on August 31st of last year:
Labor Day—A Poor Cousin to May Day?
"May Day was officially founded in 1886, during a Chicago
strike for the eight-hour workday. In 1889, the American Federation of
Labor (AFL) delegate to the International Labor Congress in Paris
proposed May 1 as international Labor Day. Workers were to march for an
eight-hour day, democracy and the right of workers to organize.
Delegates approved the request and chose May 1, 1890, as a day of
demonstrations in favor of the eight-hour day.
On a separate track, U.S. labor leaders had agitated for
creation of a labor holiday years before the Chicago rally. Among them,
Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and labor union leader, had proposed his
idea for a holiday honoring America’s workers at a New York labor
meeting in early 1882. (Others say the “founder” of Labor Day was
Matthew Maguire, a machinist who served as secretary of the Central
Labor Union in New York.)"
|Haymarket Defendants Pardoned by Governor Altgeld
"Wherever there is wrong; point it out to all the
world, and you can trust the people to right it; wrongs thrive in
secrecy and darkness."
On June 26, 1893, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld ordered that pardons be prepared for the Haymarket defendants.
announcement below was soon to be followed with exhaustive
documentation of the legacy of state crimes that led to the trial of
the Haymarket Martyrs. His friend, the famous lawyer and Progressive
leader Clarence Darrow had enouraged him to look into the injustice,
and it was among the first things he attended to after his election:
On 1st May, 1886, a number of laboring men, standing not on the street
but on a vacant lot, were quietly discussing the situation in regard to
the movement (attempts to secure an eight-hour day), when suddenly a
large body of police, under orders from Bonfield, charged on them and
began to club them; that some of the men, angered at the unprovoked
assault, at first resisted but were soon dispersed; that some of the
police fired on the men while they were running and wounded a large
number who were running as fast as they could; that at least four of
the number so shot down died; and this was wanton and unprovoked
murder, but there was not even so much as an investigation.
While some men may tamely submit to being clubbed and seeing their
brothers shot down, there are some who will resent it and will nurture
a spirit of hatred and seek revenge for themselves, and the occurrences
that preceded the Haymarket tragedy indicate that the bomb was thrown
by someone who, instead of acting on the advice of anybody, who simply
seeking personal revenge for having been clubbed, and the Captain
Bonfield is the man who is really responsible for the death of the
It is further shown here that much of the evidence given at the
trial was a pure fabrication; that some of the prominent police
officials, in their zeal, not only terrorized ignorant men by throwing
them into prison and threatening them with torture if they refused to
swear to anything desired but that they offered money and employment to
those who would consent to do this. Further, that they deliberately
planned to have fictitious conspiracies formed in order that they might
get the glory of discovering them.
I am convinced that it is clearly my duty to act in this case for
the reasons already given; and I, therefore, grant an absolute pardon
to Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, and Michael Schwab, this 26th day of
HAYMARKET MARTYRS' MONUMENT
On the base of the monument, it reads: "The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today." Behind the monument there is a plaque which reads: "These charges are of personal character, and while they seem to be sustained by the record of the trial and the papers before me and tend to show that the trial was not fair, I do not care to discuss this feature of the case any farther, because it is not necessary. I am convinced that it is clearly my duty to act in this case for the reasons already given, and I therefore grant an absolute pardon to Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe and Michael Schwab this 26th day of June, 1893. - John P. Altgeld, Governor of Illinois." The monument is located in Waldheim Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois. Photo: Matt Hucke
As for the disposition of The Haymarket Martyrs,
their stories and related materials are archived on the campus of
Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology, at the Kent School of Law:
The Martyrs' Monument by sculptor, Albert Weinert, takes its
inspiration from "La Marseillaise", the national anthem of France. It
was a favorite of Albert Parsons and he sang it in his cell just prior
to his trip to the gallows. A laurel wreath is placed on the brow of
the fallen hero, as the figure of Justice advances, resolutely toward
story of the Haymarket Martyrs, and their monument in Forest Home Cemetery,
begins at a convention of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions
in 1884. The Federation (the predecessor to the American Federation of Labor)
called for a great movement to win the 8-hour workday, which would climax on
May 1, 1886.
At this point, does the struggle sound familiar? Especially to
those of you who were illegally impeded from protesting the start of
the Gulf War - by police violence in Chicago and elsewhere. Back in
1886, the wheels of justice turned even more slowly, and the whitewash
that was laid down at the time by the wealthiest citizens of Chicago
still obscures the truth today. Time to peel the paint of, starting
The plan was to spend two
years urging all American employers to adopt a standard 8-hour day, instead
of the 10 to 12, even up to 16-hour days that were prevalent. After May 1 of
1886, all workers not yet on an 8-hour schedule, were to cease work in a nation-wide
strike until their employer would meet the demand.
Although some employers
did meet the deadline, many did not. Accordingly, great demonstrations took
place on May 1 all across the country. Chicago's was the biggest with an estimated
80,000 marching on Michigan Avenue, much to the alarm of Chicago's business
leaders and newspapers who saw it as foreshadowing "revolution," and demanded
a police crackdown.
In fact, the Anarchists
and other political radicals in Chicago were reluctant to have anything to do
with the 8-hour day strike, which they saw as "reformist;" but they were prevailed
upon by the unionists to participate because Albert Parsons and others were
such powerful orators and had a substantial following.
A mass meeting was called
for the night of May 4, 1886 in the city haymarket at Randolph St. and DesPlaines
Ave. Its purpose was to protest a police action from the previous day in which
strikers and their supporters at the McCormick Reaper plant on Blue Island Ave.
had been killed and injured by police...(Read more here)
DAVID ROKNICH edits DOGSPOT
|. Written by Guest on Monday, May 07, 2007|
You mention Albert Parsons, but not Lucy Parsons. He was a Confederate soldier, and she a mixed race woman; they were both from Texas. They ended up in Chicago after finding it difficult in the reconstruction south.
Lucy Parsons attended the founding convention of the Industrial
Workers of The World in 1905, in Chicago. The first sentence in the preamble to the IWW constitution is: "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common." Capitalists have so shattered the sacred hoop, to use a Native American phrase, so harmed their relations with workers, that this is true.
Your article makes the AF of L into something it wasn't, at the time, supportive of immigrants.
The IWW brought African Americans and whites together illegally under Jim Crow, in lumber; they worked with migrant farm workers at the Durst farm in California, and with immigrants, in steel, at McKees Rock, Pa, and also in the Lawrence textile strike in Ma, in 1912. Established unions, the AF of L, neglected women as well. All of these efforts, which changed the face of labor, got little support from the leadership of the AF of L, but much from the workers.
Often times when I go to Change to Win manifestations I hear about the past, but never about the IWW. Why?
Why do we want to forget these radicals who brought together immigrants and natives, who organized among women and blacks? Does anyone remember the names of the two Wobblies who spent years in jail for organizing migrant farm workers, in California?
When we write about May Day we shouldn't leave all this out.
May Day: Made in the USA
IWW Home page
IWW in Wikipedia
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