Saturday, December 17, 2005

Haymarket: Remembering those who gave their lives for our 8 hour work day!

In Europe, the Haymarket Square Riot and events that followed it are widely known as a significant moment in the American labor movement. Unfortunately, our sadly lacking education system and current anti-labor bias has our left the vast majority of our citizens clueless to American labor history. So, in case you might be among the clueless:

The Haymarket Martyrs

The story of the Haymarket Martyrs, and their monument in Forest Home Cemetery, begins at a convention of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in 1884. The Federation (the predecessor to the American Federation of Labor) called for a great movement to win the 8-hour workday, which would climax on May 1, 1886.

The plan was to spend two years urging all American employers to adopt a standard 8-hour day, instead of the 10 to 12, even up to 16-hour days that were prevalent. After May 1 of 1886, all workers not yet on an 8-hour schedule, were to cease work in a nation-wide strike until their employer would meet the demand.

80,000 Marched

Although some employers did meet the deadline, many did not. Accordingly, great demonstrations took place on May 1 all across the country. Chicago's was the biggest with an estimated 80,000 marching on Michigan Avenue, much to the alarm of Chicago's business leaders and newspapers who saw it as foreshadowing "revolution," and demanded a police crackdown. Read More Here

More on American Labor History Here

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