By Azalia Rosas
May Day is also known as International Workers’ Day. A national holiday many other countries, it actually originated in the United States in 1886 when over 300,000 workers walked out of 13,000 businesses across the country to vie for the 8-hour work day and safer working conditions, and ultimately, initiate May Day history. On May 3rd--two days after 40,000 “8-hour day agitators” went on strike in Chicago--violence struck at the McCormick Reaper Works company where picketing steelworkers were harassed and even beaten by police and armed private detectives for over 6 months. A public meeting was called in Haymarket Square the day after a speech at the same plant resulted in two dead and multiple wounded strikers.
The Haymarket Square meeting was received by only 3000 people including families and Chicago’s mayor. As the meeting began to wind down and the crowd began to disperse, two detectives warned the main body of officers that a speaker was trying to rile up the crowd. Once the police began to move people along, a bomb was thrown into the moving ranks of police officers which drew police fire into the crowd. Up to 8 civilians and 8 officers died and 40 civilians were wounded. After this, the socialist and anarchist ideals that created labor unions were practically outlawed. (Chase)
May Day (International Workers’ Day) is nationally celebrated in over 66 countries around the world, the United States not being one of them. This is most likely because anarchism and socialism became terms unfriendly to the US after the Haymarket Square Massacre. The labor union came from both the socialist ideology in which workers control production and distribution of the fruits of their labor, and the anarchist ideologies which included worker-controlled industry, and an end to hierarchical structures.
Because of the socialist and anarchist ideals that led to labor unions and May Day, the United States has avoided the celebration of it. Among the 66 countries are multiple South American, African, European, and Asian countries including both Oceania countries, Australia and New Zealand. (Chase, Remington)
International Workers’ Day is a day where people come together to voice workers’ needs and rights. Recently in the US, May Day has come to be a march for the rights of working immigrants (both illegal and not) and those of the LGBTQ+ community. In this fight for rights in the workplace, May Day is also a fight for immigration reform.
As of late, May Day in Milwaukee has been spearheaded by Voces de la Frontera who has lead the celebration as a peaceful demonstration to vocalize the desire for documentation for immigrants. This year Voces de la Frontera and YES (Youth Empowered in the Struggle) are hosting a Solidarity March in which people will come together to “march against Governor Scott Walker’s attacks on education and to defend public schools, to defend labor unions, and administrative relief for immigrants” (see image), and to push for an immigration reform that will lead to the citizenship of undocumented immigrants. (Voces de la Frontera, Wisconsin Bail Out the People)
As a multicultural sorority, Kappa Sigma Mu believes in respect and rights for all peoples and can support the solidarity with equality that May Day has come to embody.
This year KSM will show our support for the working class community. The Solidarity March began at the Voces de la Frontera Milwaukee office and ended in a peaceful rally.
We'll see you there next year!
Chase, Eric. “The Brief Origins of May Day”. Industrial Workers of the World. Web. April 3rd, 2015. http://www.iww.org/history/library/misc/origins_of_mayday
Seymour, Richard. “May Day Is Not About Maypoles: The History of International Workers’ Day”. The Guardian. Web. April 19th, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/may/01/may-day-history-international-workers-day
“Milwaukee MAY DAY 2015”. Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement. Web. April 3rd, 2015. http://wibailoutpeople.org/2015/03/17/milwaukee-may-day-2015/
Voces de la Frontera. April 5th, 2015. http://vdlf.org/
Remington, Chris. “The Significance of May Day”. Need to Know. Web. April 3rd, 2015. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/immigration-3/the-importance-of-may-day-across-communities/16881/
“Milwaukee: May Day 2014” Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement. Web. April 27th, 2015. http://wibailoutpeople.org/2014/04/12/milwaukee-may-day-2014/
“Voces de la Frontera Leads May Day Immigration March”. Journal Sentinel. Web. April 27th, 2015. http://m.jsonline.com/multimedia/205658181.htm?item=113002951