By Ryan Deto
During the Industrial Revolution of the 1880s, American manufacturing saw record numbers of production and with it, atrocious working conditions. New production methods might have helped the bottom line for many industries, but only exacerbated life for the American worker. Hours were long, conditions were poor, and the negative effects on workers’ health were substantial, if not fatal.
As a result, the decade produced a number of workers’ rights movements. This culminated in 1886 with the Haymarket affair of Chicago. Walkouts started on May 1 of that year; four days later, Chicago police killed four people during a peaceful worker’s rights protest.
In 1889, the International Socialist Conference declared May 1 to be International Workers’ Day. May Day holidays in Europe originated much earlier as ways to celebrate the arrival of spring and warm weather, but many Americans and others around the world have chosen the day to commemorate the anniversary of the Haymarket affair.
During the anti-communism fervor of the late 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower declared May Day as “Loyalty Day” in an attempt to disassociate the day from workers’ rights activism, but it didn’t take. May Day is still celebrated as a time to remember the power workers have over their bosses, and Pittsburgh has three such celebrations to commemorate that power.
May Day: Justice for All Workers!
Wed., May 1, 6-8 p.m. 1688 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill.
This celebration organized by the Pittsburgh chapter of Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and 18 other local organizations is all about the intersectionality of labor. LCLAA’s Facebook page says, “To everyone who labors today: We wouldn’t be here without your work.”
The event will be about remembering the leaders of migrant, Black, Jewish, Muslim, disabled, and queer workers who fought to secure better workers’ rights for everyone. LCLAA says by uniting all these working forces, they can use labor as a tool to fight white supremacy.