By Caroline Thew | Our Voice Contributor
May Day has been celebrated for centuries in various forms and for various reasons. Originally a pagan astrological holiday celebrating spring and rebirth known as Beltane, May Day has been International Labor Day or International Workers’ Day for the past 131 years. Time Magazine covered this in 1929, 1938, and again in 2015.
In summation of the 2015 article, which quotes the 1929 and 1938 articles, on May 1, 1886, 200,000 union workers in Chicago and other cities walked off the job and started demonstrating in favor of the 8 hour work day and safer work conditions. These demonstrations turned into the Haymarket Affair or Haymarket Massacre. Dynamite was thrown at police officers in retaliation for the killing of protesters the day before and this triggered further escalation of violence.
There was a show trial convicting and sentencing many “conspirators” to life in prison and in some cases, death! Two governors commuted or pardoned some of the sentences. Two protesters were put to death and one protester committed suicide in lieu of being hung.
There are many lessons we as a country still have to learn. From police brutality and violent anarchists infiltrating peaceful protests, to politicians co-opting movements for their own agenda a la Eisenhower’s declaration in 1958 that May Day would be a day of loyalty to America and Freedom. Many of the gains workers and unions achieved in the 20th century have been under constant attack from “right to work” laws. These laws lead to the proliferation of part-time shift work with unpredictable schedules and little to no benefits.
It’s high time we remember the sacrifices made for the sake of our rights as working Americans. On this day, the 1st of May, let us not take for granted all we have gained, but instead focus on regaining the ground we have lost due to these unjust “right to work” laws!