May Day has more than one meaning. The origin is an ancient festival marking the first day of summer in some cultures and a spring holiday in others. But in 1889 May Day was chosen by European socialists-- with the agreement of labor activists, anarchists, communists and leftists in general-- to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago and the struggle for the 8-hour working day. Labor historian William Adelman: "No single event has influenced the history of labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world, more than the Chicago Haymarket Affair. It began with a rally on May 4, 1886, but the consequences are still being felt today. Although the rally is included in American history textbooks, very few present the event accurately or point out its significance."
Yesterday NPR noted that "you'd be forgiven if that's news to you. While the day traces its origins to an American laborers' fight for a shorter work day, the U.S. does not officially recognize International Labor Day." In our country, resistance to celebrate International Labor Day-- also called International Workers' Day-- in May stems from a resistance to emboldening worldwide working-class unity. Peter Linebaugh, author of The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day, wrote that 'The ruling class did not want to have a very active labor force connected internationally. The principle of national patriotism was used against the principle of working-class unity or trade union unity."
This morning, I spoke with several of the Blue America-endorsed candidates who are running on specifically pro-union platforms. Jason Call, the progressive candidate taking on corrupt New Dem Rick Larsen in northwest Washington, told me that "This year’s May Day is one of the most significant in recent memory in the United States, as we see a wave of unionizations across the country with Starbucks and Amazon workers, tired of being exploited with low wages and oppressive working conditions on behalf of their companies’ billionaire owners. Here in Seattle I was proud to walk the picket lines with Teamsters Local 174 cement truck drivers fighting for good faith bargaining in the construction trades. My campaign stands in solidarity with workers not only in the US, but around the world. All productive value starts with labor. Solidarity!"
Right across the country in Rhode Island, the progressive for the open congressional seat, David Segal, is coming from very much the same perspective. "I've stood with workers and organized labor since my first run for office, as part of a movement to ensure city workers would be paid a living wage-- and I'm proud to have had union support each time I've run for office. I'll take the lessons I've learned from unions with me to Congress-- where I'll be not just a good vote, but also an internal organizer of my colleagues, in support of workers and in every other fight to make government do more for everyday people."
This week Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, the progressive candidate for the open congressional seat in southeast L.A. and Long Beach, told her supporters why she is one of the sponsors of legislation "to cap our state’s work week at 32 hours-- or four days-- for large companies with more than 500 employees. I’m not afraid to challenge the status quo, not only will a 32 hour week increase productivity and give people more quality time with their loved ones, but it will create jobs. The five-day work week came about thanks to organizers and workers fighting for decades for what’s right. The pandemic has changed how we work, and our work structure should recognize that. So many people are working upwards of 60 to 80 hours a week with limited pay, while large companies see record-breaking profit."
Cristina emphasized that she will "never stop fighting against the status quo, which is why I’m taking my fight for economic justice to Congress. So many members of Congress have no idea what it’s like working a minimum wage job 40+ hours a week.
Christine Olivo is taking on reactionary Republican Mario Diaz Balart in a newly redrawn south Florida district. Christine was fired during her first pregnancy and demoted during her second pregnancy. "My employers saw me as a liability," she told me today, "but I was an asset. They left me with no insurance, no work, placing a huge financial burden on my husband. I was tossed aside because Florida is a right-to-work state. Today I join others on the steps of the Government Center in Miami, Florida as we march for worker’s rights. We must put an end to the right-to-work laws on a federal level and we must put an end to women discrimination in the workplace. This is more than a movement for me, it’s personal."
"May Day" is also an international distress call. And with primaries rapidly closing in-- Ohio is in two days!-- this really is in emergency territory now, with Republican money flooding into Democratic races via dirty players like the Blue Dogs, Democratic Majority for Israel, No Labels, etc. Please, if you can afford to, consider contributing the the union-supporting candidates on this page by clicking here or on the Blue America 2022 congressional thermometer on the left. One last thought about May Day: there is only one Democrat left in Congress who voted against raising the minimum wage, Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR), who also voted against lowering the cost of prescription drugs and who was endorsed by Biden as his first endorsement of the 2022 election cycle. Blue America has endorsed Jamie McLeod-Skinner to replace him.
UPDATE-- Here's How Bernie Summed Up May Day:
People here in America and around the world need to stand up and say:
“We need decent wages.”
“We need decent working conditions.”
“We need decent schedules.”
“We want to be heard.”
“We want respect on the job.”
Because the truth is, neither the United States nor the international community can sustain itself when so few have so much while so many have so little.
All people who want to work-- regardless of where they are from-- should be entitled to a good-paying job with decent benefits.
All people-- regardless of where they are from-- should be entitled to health care as a human right.
All people-- regardless of where they are from-- should be guaranteed decent and affordable housing.
All people-- regardless of where they are from-- should have the right to a secure retirement with dignity.
All people-- regardless of where they are from-- should be entitled to a complete education.
So on this May Day 2022, let us keep our eyes on the prize.
Let us realize the struggles of working people everywhere-- from teachers protesting in Hungary to Amazon workers in Staten Island-- are connected.
Let us realize that when workers organize and succeed anywhere they are increasing the influence that working people have in the political process everywhere.
And let us realize, most importantly, that when people of all backgrounds stand together in solidarity, there is nothing we cannot accomplish-- including creating a world in which all people live in peace and unity.