Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy International Workers Day!

On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers across the United States walked off their jobs to demand an 8-hour work day. Demonstrators paraded in the streets. The Chicago police tried to crack down on the protesters and the peaceful demonstrations erupted into the violence that became the Haymarket Massacre. Despite the brutality, the workers achieved their goal and the 8-hour work day came to be accepted.

Government, business leaders and the media, frightened at the prospect of an empowered citizenry demanding fair, safe working conditions and social justice, undermined the growing labor movement and characterized its leaders as foreign born, bomb-throwing radicals. The history and significance of May Day was subverted and buried.

Though, in the United States we no longer acknowledge the contributions of the strikers, International Workers Day is a national holiday in many other countries. Today hundreds of thousands of workers in Europe and Asia and throughout the world turned out to celebrate this day.

"When the prison, stake or scaffold can no longer silence the voice of the protesting minority, progress moves on a step, but not until then. "
Lucy Parsons, labor leader, social activist and anarchist

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