Brothers and sisters:
Happy May Day!
For years I’ve started the May article with this greeting and for years I’ve retold the stories of Germanic May Poles and the socialist coopting of the day. Even more important to labor is May 4,1886 and the events in Chicago’s Haymarket Square.
On Saturday, May 1, 60,000 Chicago area workers walked off the job in solidarity over an eight-hour work day. The event was so successful that the general strike continued on into Monday the 3rd. That afternoon Chicago police fired into the crowd of strikers in front of the McCormick Reaper Works killing several and wounding many more. That night a group of local anarchists printed leaflets calling for a rally the next afternoon in Haymarket Square to protest the massacre of the unarmed strikers.
The Haymarket rally was peaceful until the end when a bomb was tossed into the phalanx of police by “persons unknown.” In the confusion, police shot into the crowd killing and wounding many protesters including shooting other police officers.
After the police riot, the city was under martial law. Anarchist and labor halls were closed, hundreds rounded up, interrogated and held without charge and the city’s labor newspaper shut down by the Mayor. The mainstream press blamed the eight-hour movement for the bloodshed. As a result the eight-hour day did not become law until the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
Eight of the organizers were arrested and convicted of the resulting riot and bloodshed even though their indictment acknowledged that the bomb had been “thrown by an unknown person” but alleged that the thrower had been “aided, abetted and encouraged” by the anarchists. Seven were sentenced to death and one to 15 years in prison. Two later had their sentence commuted to life in prison. One died on the eve of his execution by either his own hand or was assassinated by police. The final four were hanged using ropes that were too short for the task assuring they would be slowly and excruciatingly suffocated to death.
So… all this over an eight hour work day. The next time one of your anti-labor friends spews corporate babble ask them if they like their eight hour day. Then remind them of the organized men whose blood ran the streets red.
This is our heritage. These are our heroes.
There is still time to get your reservation in for the Annual Local 17 Retiree’s Dinner to be held on May 20th at Frank Sterle’s Slovenian House Restaurant, 1401 East 55th Street. Festivities start at 5:30 with food served at 6:30. All members, active and retired, are invited to attend. The cost at the door is $30 for active members and retirees are free. Contact Business Manager Tim Moennich at 216-431-8088 or email him at TMoennich@iueclocal17.org.
Where are they working?
Joe Broz Jr. and John Connelly doing a mod at the Halle’s Parking Garage for Thyssen,
Tom Peska, Matt Weingart, Jason Tischler and Daniel Varga doing escalator work at the Hilton Hotel for Schindler,
Leon Oullette and Tim Gibbons repairing water damage at CSU for Schindler,
Greg Seaman and John Smith doing a door mod at Playhouse Square Parking for Schindler,
Kevin Thomas and Ed Gimmel installing an elevator at Halle’s Warehouse for Thyssen,
Gary Thompson and Ryan Todd doing a mod at Erieview Tower for Schindler,
Bill Yuhas and Ken Eaton installing a traction car at Bohn Tower for Thyssen,
Bob Meyer and Matt Harden installing an elevator at Case Western Reserve for Kone,
Jeff Ward and Eric Radanovich doing a jack at Columbus Park for Thyssen.
As of this writing the bench is clear and Local 17 has 24 probationary apprentices working.
Until next month,
Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.