Why I don’t celebrate “Labor Day” in September

poster for labor strike

The real Labor Day is on May 1st, also known as International Worker’s Day, and it is celebrated as “Labor Day” in more than 80 countries throughout the world. The celebration is based, of course, on the labor movement in the US, in the same way that International Working Woman’s Day, celebrated throughout the world on March 8th, is based on women’s labor struggles in the U.S. So Labor Day is another ‘holy day’ taken away from us, the people, by vested interests, and one that we must take back if innocent bloodshed for a good cause is not to be in vain.

In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in the US passed a resolution to strike, inasmuch as all attempts to reduce working hours from 16 to 8 had failed. This movement gained momentum and on May 1st, 1886, in Chicago, there was a call for a strike. In those days, strikes were broken by police, paid for by “captains of industry.” The Chicago strike was peaceful until on May 3rd, near the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. factory, police started firing upon the unarmed and peaceful demonstrators, with no provocation, killing four workers and injuring several others. The next day on May 4th, the organizers announced a big rally against the criminal action of police at Market Square. The gathering was peaceful. When the last leader was delivering his speech, the police started firing on the workers. Several people died and hundreds were injured. (Does any of this sound familiar, good people of Oz?)

A fake case was filed against labor leaders and 8 leaders were sentenced to death, despite the fact that many of them had not even been present at the event, but they were organizers, and the powers that be wanted the movement to die a painful death. Albert Parson, August Spize, Adolf Fischer and George Angel were hanged on November 11, 1887. Louise Ling committed suicide in jail. The other three were pardoned in June of 1893 by Governor John P. Altgeld, who condemned the entire judicial system that had allowed this injustice..

In 1889 it was decided to declare May 1 as labor day. On the first of May 1890, the first May Day was observed in the memory of the martyrs of the Labor Movement. It is the true Labor Day throughout the greater part of the world, and should be observed by
anyone who enjoys the 8 hour workday.

Of course, after the Haymarket Massacre, President Grover Cleveland felt that celebrating Labor Day on May 1st would be an opportunity to remember the massacre; this is the main reason that Labor Day was established as an official holiday in September. Or at least that is what is given as a reason. I believe when we are ‘divorced’ from our true history, they can make fools out of us much better.

The Haymarket Affair

Far-right governments have traditionally sought to repress the message behind International Workers’ Day, some of them abolishing this workers’ holiday. In the United States of Apathy, we always have a special twist and a marketing ploy for our holidays, which are opportunities to barbecue and get drunk and never do anything that could disturb that holy class, the CEOs. It is called panem et circenses, or bread and circuses, well used by the Roman Empire to distract their citizens from the problems of empire.

So in these lovely days of massive disparity between the salaries of the “captains of industry” and the rest of us peons, shouldn’t we be realizing, to paraphrase brother Carlitos, that we have nothing to lose but our chains?

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