Monday, April 8, 2013

May 1st March, an Historical Perspective

   Voces de la Frontera’s annual May 1st March is for worker rights and focuses on immigration reform while referencing itself to the historic May 1st marches in the past.

   The story begins in 1886 when the Knights of Labor – a national labor union – campaigned for the eight-hour day.  In Chicago two demonstrations resulted in police violence.  A demonstration of workers, mostly immigrants from Germany, at Chicago’s Haymarket, between Desplaines and Halsted Streets, resulted in several being killed.  Although the workers had a permit for the public meeting, those thought to have organized the meeting were indicted and convicted of murder.  Four were executed by the state of Illinois. Those indicted and convicted are called the Haymarket Martyrs and have been memorialized in May 1st marches since the 1890’s mostly in Europe and Latin America.

   A few days after the ‘Haymarket,’ a group of Polish workers in Milwaukee gathered at St. Stanislaus Church to march to the Bay View Rolling Mills to demand an eight-hour day.  The marchers were met with gunfire from the Wisconsin National Guard and several workers were killed. This event in labor history is chronicled as the Bay View Massacre.  The Milwaukee confrontation is not well known, but Milwaukee workers remember and so do the immigrant workers of Voces de la Frontera remember as they march on May 1st for immigration reform and the rights of all workers.

   The above is a brief review of the events that are memorialized in the May 1st Marches since the 1890’s.  The next postings will provide a more detailed account of the “Haymarket Riot” and the “Bay View Massacre,” starting Tuesday, April 16th and for successive Tuesdays.

  The story is related from the point of view of a trip to England to learn more about Samuel Fielden, an Immigrant from England and one of the “Haymarket Martyrs.” Again, a new posting will be made every Tuesday starting on April 16th .

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