Originally written on April 30, 2010

On the eve of International Worker’s Day, otherwise known as May Day, I thought it fitting to close out the month with a celebration and remembrance of the struggles of the workers, the poor, and the oppressed throughout the world.

First, I would like to thank everyone thus far who has supported, read, subscribed and given words of encouragement to The Todd Blog. In just over a month, my little blog, which started merely as a means of filling some time and defending my name, has become something I am proud to put my name on–something that is enjoyed by an increasing number of leftists, artists, writers and free-thinkers every day. I sincerely hope that I continue to provide intelligent and thought provoking content on a daily basis (I’ll try at least) and continue to receive the overwhelming support, not only from the left, but all others who enjoy reading my stories of a life well-worn and well-lived–I’ll try to add a bit more non-political posts in the future for you folks. Again, I give genuine thanks to everyone who has helped make The Todd Blog something special and something that will continue to strive in the future. Now on to May Day….

For those who don’t know the history, International Worker’s Day arose from the aftermath of the Haymarket Affair in Chicago on May 4, 1886. On May 1, workers around the country were on strike demanding an eight hour work day and rallies and marches were held in solidarity. 40,000 of these workers were on strike in Chicago, and on May 3rd, many of these workers met near the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company–as the workers had been locked out since February. The strikers confronted strikebreakers backed by the police: gunfire erupted, killing two McCormick workers. Anarchist August Spies, who had spoken at the gathering that day, organized a large rally in support of the slain workers to take place at Haymarket Square on May 4th.

The gathering began peacefully until an unknown and supposed anarchist threw a pipe-bomb at the police line gathered to prevent any violence from occurring (or incite violence, depending on one’s perspective). The police then began firing on the crowd. After the shooting had stopped, several protesters and several officers–by “friendly” fire–were dead. Eight Anarchists, including Spies, were put on trial for inciting the riot. Some of these men on trial were not even at Haymarket Square at the time, yet due to their Anarchist affiliation, were tried nonetheless. All eight were found guilty and seven were sentenced to death.

The violence of the Haymarket Affair would prove to be a setback for the eight-hour work day. Four years later, the AFL had organized world-wide demonstration by workers in support of the eight-hour workday. May 1st, 1890, was chosen as the date of this global demonstration in recognition of the violence at Haymarket Square four years earlier. May 1st was then officially adopted as International Worker’s Day, or May Day as it is popularly known. It has continued to be celebrated by Workers around the world ever since–except in the United States.

Labor Day, the United States’ watered down version of May Day, actually originated in Canada in the 1870s. Labor Leader Peter McGuire witnessed this Canadian “labor day” and brought the idea back to the U.S. The first U.S. Labor Day occurred Sep. 5th, 1882. It was not officially recognized until 1894 when Grover Cleveland, fearing widespread rioting and strikes if May Day was officially adopted, made it an official national holiday. Despite attempts by various Unions and social justice groups to officially dedicate May 1st as International Worker’s Day, Labor Day, observed on the first Monday in September, continues to be the only official holiday to recognize workers. Despite the reluctance of the U.S. to acknowledge International Worker’s Day, May 1st is celebrated and recognized throughout the world as a day to, not only remember the Haymarket Affair, but a day to remember, in working-class solidarity, the struggles of the oppressed working class throughout world history and to acknowledge that much still needs to be accomplished in order for true equality to be achieved.

Everyone of us on the Left–in fact every worker in the country–should acknowledge and learn about the events that led to International Worker’s Day and continue to stand in solidarity with workers throughout the world. Despite the attempts of Imperialism to marginalize and desecrate the Union Movement, we need to acknowledge the role that Unions have played in improving our standard of living. The eight hour work day; the issue that led to the strikes of 1886 and eventually the Haymarket Affair, was eventually adopted as the norm thanks to the dedication and determination of Labor Unions. Of course, this is slowly eroding as Unions have been weakened and maligned. So many workers, even some union workers, are required to work overtime, sometimes at the same pay rate.

Unions have provided the average citizen the opportunity to earn a decent wage and retire at an appropriate age without worries of survival. This has slowly been eroding due to the continued expansion of corporations into the third world where despotic regimes, often propped up by secret involvement of the United States military, allow these Imperialist forces to exploit their citizens at very low wage and long hours. The term “Union” has purposefully been drug through the mud by the corporate controlled media who neglects to give an accurate historical context of the important role they have played in our history and has convinced so many that unions, despite evidence to the contrary, hurt Americans by not allowing corporations to do as they please without any government oversight or pesky union demanding fair labor conditions. The American people owe what is left of the scraps the ruling class allows to take because of unions. If we do not stand up for decent wages, benefits, retirement and working conditions, we too will end up like the third world countries that do not have a constitution or bill of rights protecting them from global imperialist hegemony.

I sincerely wish everyone a wonderful May Day tomorrow, whether you live in the U.S. or in another country where it is likely a national holiday. Please remember the struggles of those that came before you and the struggles that lie ahead. We can build a better world for all of us if rational thought can prevail; petty ideological bickering among academics and others on the left can be replaced by a common goal rather than self-serving intellectual diatribe; and corrupt politicians who lie and propagate corporate hegemony are held accountable through what is left of our democracy. I wish everyone the best in overcoming whatever struggles lay ahead, both personally and socially, and thank you again for supporting this blog and giving me a voice to stand up for true freedom.