About 2,000 people marched down Lake Street in Minneapolis to to join with the hundreds of thousands around the world to celebrate International Workers’ Day, May 1, 2012.
It was a high energy crowd, but well disciplined. It was a kaleidoscope of colorful banners, signs and costumes. May Day celebrations in many other cities around the world were marked with conflict and turmoil, in Minneapolis there were no conflicts or police incidents.
The march started at Lake and Nicollet and proceeded through the immigrant community on Lake Street and ended with a rally in Powderhorn Park. Participating groups represented a broad cross section of public issues: Worker’s rights were foremost, but there were also banners for immigrant concerns, working conditions, FBI actions, Peace, Mexican policies, Native Americans, Socialist Workers and many other issues.
Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers’ Day or May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries such as Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don’t realize that May Day has its origins here in this country, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility. Labor groups were pressing for an eight hour day, working seven days a week.
At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The Haymarket Massacre occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886, when a bomb was thrown into a labor rally for an eight-hour work day. Workers and police were killed and a series of trials followed.
A precursor to Chicago demonstration was a worker action in Australia for an eight hour work day in 1856. The workers there decided to organize a day of complete stoppage as a demonstration in favor of the eight-hour day.
The eight-hour days is now an accepted fact but many workers feel that the struggle of the workers against the bourgeoisie and the ruling class continues.