May Day 2016

Most Americans think that “May Day,” celebrated on May 1st, is a Communist holiday. They associate May Day with massive military parades in the Kremlin or Havana. However, May Day is an American holiday with its genesis in Chicago in 1884. In those days the American labor movement was beginning to exert its influence, with unions beginning to advocate for fundamental job safety and child labor reforms. At their convention in 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions declared that by May 1st, 1886 an eight-hour workday would be the norm in American workplaces. The normal workday in American factories in those days was anywhere from 12 to 16 hours. It was a seminal moment in the Labor Movement, not only in the United States but around the world.

You know, looking back on the American Labor Movement and its contributions to the safety and welfare of workers worldwide compared to its present state is a bit sad. Destroying unions has been an agenda of the American right wing for decades and more recently successful. Many people blame the trade pacts, starting with NAFTA, which certainly accelerated the destruction of unions and the standard of living for many working Americans. The Labor Movement in the late 1800s was largely funded and populated by American Socialists. Maybe we need another Socialist to restore decent jobs and wages for Americans again…

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