May Day: Crusade for the Eight-Hour Work Day

May 1st, or May Day, is recognized for numerous reasons. It holds many springtime celebrations, European religious traditions, and has internationally has been accepted as International Workers Day, a time to celebrate laborers and the working class. Although the United States already has September 1st calendared as “Labor Day”, May 1st is to honor the 1886 Haymarket Massacre (also known as the Haymarket Affair or Haymarket Riot) in Chicago, IL.

On May 3rd, workers held a labor demonstration to fight for an eight-hour work day, which led to police killing several of the workers. The following day, a peaceful rally was held to honor the slain workers. However, the peaceful gathering turned violent when someone threw dynamite at police trying to stop the rally. The event catastrophically ended, resulting in the deaths of seven police officers, four civilians, and countless injured. In the aftermath, hundreds of labor leaders and allies were rounded up and four of them were hung. Eight anarchists were later convicted of making and throwing the bomb and were sentenced to either hang or spent life in jail.

The deadly demonstrations made the news world-wide, and at a French Socialist meeting in 1889, officials proposed to make May Day a day of international demonstrations to remember the Haymarket Massacre. The eight-hour work day would not have been inherited to workers today if it

weren’t for the martyrs of the Haymarket Affair. The history of May Day is meant to educate those who don’t understand the constant challenges faced by the labor movement and strengthen those who continue to fight for labor rights today. Although the focus shifted far past an eight-hour work day, every local union and labor organization both independently and collectively share concerns for the modern worker. Local 315 has been in numerous contract negotiations, which sheds light on our fight against subcontracting and excessive overtime, while pressing for good wages, benefits, and worker safety.