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On May First, Labor Day Was Born in Chicago (2008 update-2)

by David Roknich (roknich (at)
Labor Day, on May First is an American Holiday so feared by corporate interests, they have suppressed it in it's home country. Today, May First is celebrated through the world as Labor Day, but not in the USA. The first week of May in 1886 marked a turning point in the struggle for Justice in this country.
The fair treatment of the worker - the originator of all economic value - is the cornerstone of our freedoms to the extent that we still enjoy them today.
The events of that historic week will be celebrated here in DOGSPOT, with a little help from the experts. Experts like Adam Smith, the arch-capitalist, and John Peter Altgeld, the courageous Illinois governor who pardoned the alleged "bomb throwing anarchists" of the so-called "Haymarket Riot" of May 4, 1886.

Working people with a sense of history who have pride in the country they built often search for Labor Day like a missing tooth: satisfaction is not found at picnics that close the summer each year.

In 1776, the arch-capitalist Adam Smith published "The Wealth of Nations", and in that mighty tome proclaimed that:

"The Worker's Toil is the Sole measure of Value"

Today, the ready availability of slave labor on distant shores continues to erode the respect for the worker that is essential to the success of capitalism. May 1st is the day for us to celebrate the dignity of the worker, the cornerstone of our economic past, present and future.

Last year, some history was posted at the AFL-CIO website. Although well corroborated with contemporary eye-witness accounts and numerous legal documents, it is not adequately taught in our schools, and each year reporters and self styled "experts" get it wrong. This year, it is time to set all the details straight for the celebration workers should enjoy in the US, in concert with their fellows throughout the world.

Here's an excerpt from the AFL-CIO blog posted on August 31st of last year:

Labor Day—A Poor Cousin to May Day?
"May Day was officially founded in 1886, during a Chicago strike for the eight-hour workday. In 1889, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) delegate to the International Labor Congress in Paris proposed May 1 as international Labor Day. Workers were to march for an eight-hour day, democracy and the right of workers to organize. Delegates approved the request and chose May 1, 1890, as a day of demonstrations in favor of the eight-hour day.

On a separate track, U.S. labor leaders had agitated for creation of a labor holiday years before the Chicago rally. Among them, Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and labor union leader, had proposed his idea for a holiday honoring America’s workers at a New York labor meeting in early 1882. (Others say the “founder” of Labor Day was Matthew Maguire, a machinist who served as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.)"
As for the disposition of The Haymarket Martyrs, their stories and related materials are archived on the campus of Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology, at the Kent School of Law:

The Martyrs' Monument by sculptor, Albert Weinert, takes its inspiration from "La Marseillaise", the national anthem of France. It was a favorite of Albert Parsons and he sang it in his cell just prior to his trip to the gallows. A laurel wreath is placed on the brow of the fallen hero, as the figure of Justice advances, resolutely toward the future.

The story of the Haymarket Martyrs, and their monument in Forest Home Cemetery, begins at a convention of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in 1884. The Federation (the predecessor to the American Federation of Labor) called for a great movement to win the 8-hour workday, which would climax on May 1, 1886.

The plan was to spend two years urging all American employers to adopt a standard 8-hour day, instead of the 10 to 12, even up to 16-hour days that were prevalent. After May 1 of 1886, all workers not yet on an 8-hour schedule, were to cease work in a nation-wide strike until their employer would meet the demand.

80,000 Marched

Although some employers did meet the deadline, many did not. Accordingly, great demonstrations took place on May 1 all across the country. Chicago's was the biggest with an estimated 80,000 marching on Michigan Avenue, much to the alarm of Chicago's business leaders and newspapers who saw it as foreshadowing "revolution," and demanded a police crackdown.

In fact, the Anarchists and other political radicals in Chicago were reluctant to have anything to do with the 8-hour day strike, which they saw as "reformist;" but they were prevailed upon by the unionists to participate because Albert Parsons and others were such powerful orators and had a substantial following.

A mass meeting was called for the night of May 4, 1886 in the city haymarket at Randolph St. and DesPlaines Ave. Its purpose was to protest a police action from the previous day in which strikers and their supporters at the McCormick Reaper plant on Blue Island Ave. had been killed and injured by police.... CONTINUES

At this point folks, does the struggle sound familiar? Especially to those of you who were illegally impeded from protesting the start of the Gulf War - by police violence in Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere. Back in 1886, the wheels of justice turned even more slowly, and the whitewash that was laid down at the time by the wealthiest citizens of Chicago still obscures the truth today. Time to peel the paint off, starting today.

David Roknich,


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