May Day Proposal: A Call To Action
May Day Proposal: A Call To Action
By David Swanson
May Day, the First of May, 2008, is a Thursday. According to the Bush Administration it is Loyalty Day. Are you feeling loyal? According to history Bush would like to forget, it is the five-year anniversary of a flight-suited George W. waddling across an aircraft carrier in San Diego harbor and declaring "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. And it is the three-year anniversary of the publication of the Downing Street Minutes.
May Day is also the real labor day, the commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre and the fight for an 8-hour day in Chicago – an American holiday celebrated everywhere except in America.
May Day had a long history in Europe as a seasonal celebration of rebirth and hope. It was also the first of a month, an ideal time for strikes in industrialized nineteenth-century America where workers tended to be paid at the end of the month. At its 1884 convention the American Federation of Labor adopted a resolution that all labor would strike on May 1, 1886, to demand an eight-hour day. The media, which in this country has always been completely fair and balanced, predicted a violent Communist insurrection. The Chicago Tribune reported responsibly: "Every lamp-post in Chicago will be decorated with a communistic carcass if necessary to prevent wholesale incendiarism or prevent any attempt at it."
As documented in "Labor's Untold Story" By Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, 62,000 workers in Chicago committed to strike on May 1, another 25,000 demanded an eight-hour day without threatening to strike, and 20,000 were given the eight-hour day before May 1. Meanwhile, the Armours, Swifts, Medills, Fields, and McCormicks (Chicago's royalty, people who would have adored Loyalty Day) mobilized the National Guard, the Pinkertons, and specially deputized police.
Workers marched down Michigan Avenue in Chicago instead of working on May 1, 1886, and 340,000 did the same nationwide. Albert Parsons and August Spies spoke at the rally in Chicago, which ended peacefully. The Communist insurrection proved as real as Saddam Hussein's long-range missiles. But two days later, Chicago police shot striking workers outside McCormick Harvester Works, and labor leaders organized a protest in Haymarket Square for the next day. In the meantime, thousands of workers all over the country were winning the eight-hour day and returning to work.
As the relatively small and peaceful meeting at Haymarket Square was wrapping up, 180 policemen marched on the crowd, and a bomb went off -- which many believe was thrown by an agent provocateur. The Chicago Tribune demanded that Parsons, Spies, Michael Schwab, and Samuel Fielden be hanged for murder. The police began smashing up labor offices and beating up innocent people. "Make the raids first and look up the law afterwards," said John Ashcroft - oops, I mean Julius Grinnell, Chicago's State's Attorney. The four men named above were indicted for murder, along with George Engel, Adolph Fisher, and Louis Lingg. Parsons, who had escaped, became a modern Socrates and turned himself in to face certain death. Testimony from "witnesses" who had been threatened with torture and others who had been paid turned out so contradictory that the prosecution shifted to a focus on the defendants' thoughts and politics. Fielden and Schwab ended up with life sentences; Lingg died in his cell; the others were hung. Parsons left behind a note to his children that included this:
"We show our love by living for our loved ones. We also prove our love by dying, when necessary, for them."
In the tradition of those who have gone before us and sacrificed so much for so many benefits that we take for granted, I'd like to propose a day of action on May 1, 2008, to include a general strike for peace, impeachment, and human rights. Here are proposals that have already been made from a variety of quarters:
I. Longshore Caucus calls for Iraq war protest at ports on May 1
Nearly one hundred Longshore Caucus delegates voted on February 8 to support a resolution calling for an eight-hour "stop-work" meeting during the day-shift on Thursday, May 1 at ports in CA, OR and WA to protest the war by calling for the immediate, safe return of U.S. troops from Iraq.
“The Caucus has spoken on this important issue and I’ve notified the employers about our plans for 'stop work' meetings on May 1,” said ILWU International President Bob McEllrath.
Caucus delegates, including several military veterans, spoke passionately about the importance of supporting the troops by bringing them home safely and ending the War in Iraq. Concerns were also raised about the growing cost of the war that has threatened funding for domestic needs, including education and healthcare. Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda J. Bilmes recently estimated that the true cost of the War in Iraq to American taxpayers will exceed 3 trillion dollars--a figure they describe as "conservative."
The union’s International Executive Board recently endorsed Barack Obama, citing his opposition to the War in Iraq as one of the key factors in the union's decision-making process.
Caucus delegates are democratically elected representatives from every longshore local who set policy for the Longshore Division.
ILWU International President Robert McEllrath has written letters to President John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO and President Andy Stern of the Change-to-Win Coalition, and to the presidents of the International Transport Workers Federation and the International Dockworkers Council to inform them of the ILWU's plans for May 1.
II. Call to Immigrant Rights Actions 2008!
May Day 2008 National Mobilization of Immigrant Rights!
Join the e-mail list: https://lists.riseup.net/www/info/mayday2008
or send e-mail: email@example.com
III. "IMPEACH OR WE GO ON STRIKE!"
Join PTI in building solidarity for the ILWU May 1 Strike. Carry the sign that helps organize an effective, legal, non-violent "work stoppage" in defense of our Constitution, our heritage, and our freedom.
IV. I propose that we take over Washington, D.C., building on what we learned and accomplished on March 12 and 19, 2008
Post your thoughts at