May 1, 2017 John Hanno
May Day 2017….International Workers Day
Many parts of the world recognize May Day, as International Workers Day. For us in Chicago, May Day represents the very beginning of immigrant workers solidarity and the fight for better working conditions. On May Day 1886, more than 200,000 U.S. workers engaged in a nationwide strike for an eight-hour work day. The Chicago protests took place over several days. On May 3rd, a strike at the McCormick Reaper plant turned violent. On May 4th, a proposed non-violent meeting turned into what was to become known as the Haymarket Riot and Massacre. This peaceful rally was in support of workers throughout the nation, striking for an eight-hour work day and for several workers who had been killed the day before. When the police attempted to break up the meeting, someone threw a bomb. The blast from the bomb and the following gunfire set off the rioting and caused the deaths of seven police officers, four civilians and scores of people were injured.
Eight anarchists were subsequently convicted of conspiracy. Seven were sentenced to death and one received a 15 year prison term. 4 of those were hung, 2 had their sentences commuted to life by the Illinois Governor and one committed suicide.
The site of the Haymarket Square riot on North Desplaines Street, was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1992 and the defendant’s burial site in Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.
Workers congregate at the square every year to pay tribute to our brothers and sisters who fought and died for the workers rights, just working conditions and living wages some of us still enjoy today. But organized labor participation is at it’s lowest point in more than 4 decades. Workers and their living wage jobs, in red states throughout the nation, are again under siege by Republi-con controlled legislatures and governors and plutocrats like Trump, the Koch brothers and other billionaires bent on stepping up the anti-labor campaign President Regan and the Republi-con’s launched against America’s middle class in the 1970’s. Their single minded obsession with attacking union rights like collective bargaining and passing “right to work” for less laws will not “Make America Great Again.” It will take America back to the middle of the 1800’s.
Trump often criticized President Obama for sluggish GDP growth. Trump has repeatedly lied to his voters, claiming that under his leadership, the economy would see 3, 4 or even 5% GDP growth. But the U.S. economy grew at just a 0.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter of this year, which is the Trump administration’s first quarter. The experts blame anemic auto sales for the slowdown. Who does Trump and the billionaires think can afford these products and services if they continue to attack what’s left of the middle class?
Most American workers, especially union and organized labor, government workers, teachers, immigrant farm workers and minimum wage workers, in their sights and under attack, will not feel like dancing around the May Pole today. John Hanno
Haymarket affair, From Wikipedia,
“Haymarket Affair” May 4, 1886, Chicago, Illinois
Strikes, protests and demonstrations for an eight-hour work day.
Principle parties: Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. The Chicago Police Department.
Lead figures: August Spies, Albert R. Parsons, Samuel Fielden,
Carter Harrison Sr. and John Bonfield.
Casualties and arrests:
4 dead, 70 plus injured and 100 plus arrested for the demonstrators.
7 deaths and 60 injured police.
The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) was the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on Tuesday May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square in Chicago. It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour day and in reaction to the killing of several workers the previous day by the police. An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; scores of others were wounded.
In the internationally publicized legal proceedings that followed, eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy. The evidence was that one of the defendants may have built the bomb, but none of those on trial had thrown it. Seven were sentenced to death and one to a term of 15 years in prison. The death sentences of two of the defendants were commuted by Illinois governor Richard J. Oglesby to terms of life in prison, and another committed suicide in jail rather than face the gallows. The other four were hanged on November 11, 1887. In 1893, Illinois’ new governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned the remaining defendants and criticized the trial.
The Haymarket affair is generally considered significant as the origin of international May Day observances for workers. The site of the incident was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1992, and a public sculpture was dedicated there in 2004. In addition, the Haymarket Martyr’s Monument at the defendants’ burial site in nearby Forest Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.
“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,” according to labor studies professor William J. Adelman.
Following the Civil War, particularly following the Depression of 1873-79, there was a rapid expansion of industrial production in the United States. Chicago was a major industrial center and tens of thousands of German and Bohemian immigrants were employed at about $1.50 a day. American workers worked on average slightly over 60 hours, during a six-day work week. The city became a center for many attempts to organize labor’s demands for better working conditions. Employers responded with anti-union measures, such as firing and blacklisting union members, locking out workers, recruiting strikebreakers; employing spies, thugs, and private security forces and exacerbating ethnic tensions in order to divide the workers. Mainstream newspapers supported business interests, and were opposed by the labor and immigrant press. During the economic slowdown between 1882 and 1886, socialist and anarchist organizations were active. Membership of the Knights of Labor, which rejected socialism and radicalism, but supported the 8-hour work day, grew from 70,000 in 1884 to over 700,000 by 1886. In Chicago, the anarchist movement of several thousand, mostly immigrant, workers centered about the German-language newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung (“Workers’ Times”), edited by August Spies. Other anarchists operated a militant revolutionary force with an armed section that was equipped with guns and explosives. Its revolutionary strategy centered around the belief that successful operations against the police and the seizure of major industrial centers would result in massive public support by workers, start a revolution, destroy capitalism, and establish a socialist economy.
May Day parade and strikes
In October 1884, a convention held by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions unanimously set May 1, 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour work day would become standard. As the chosen date approached, U.S. labor unions prepared for a general strike in support of the eight-hour day.
On Saturday, May 1, thousands of workers went on strike and rallies were held throughout the United States, with the cry, “Eight-hour day with no cut in pay.” Estimates of the number of striking workers across the U.S. range from 300,000 to half a million. In New York City the number of demonstrators was estimated at 10,000 and in Detroit at 11,000. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, some 10,000 workers turned out. In Chicago, the movement’s center, an estimated 30,000-to-40,000 workers had gone on strike and there were perhaps twice as many people out on the streets participating in various demonstrations and marches, as, for example, a march by 10,000 men employed in the Chicago lumber yards. Though participants in these events added up to 80,000, it is disputed whether there was a march of that number down Michigan Avenue led by anarchist Albert Parsons, founder of the International Working People’s Association [IWPA], his wife Lucy and their children.
The first flier calling for a rally in the Haymarket on May 4. (left) and the revised flier for the rally. (right)
The words “Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force!” were removed from the revised flier.
On May 3, striking workers in Chicago met near the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company plant. Union molders at the plant had been locked out since early February and the predominantly Irish-American workers at McCormick had come under attack from Pinkerton guards during an earlier strike action in 1885. This event, along with the eight-hour militancy of McCormick workers, had gained the strikers some respect and notoriety around the city. By the time of the 1886 general strike, strikebreakers entering the McCormick plant were under protection from a garrison of 400 police officers. Although half of the replacement workers defected to the general strike on May 1, McCormick workers continued to harass strikebreakers as they crossed the picket lines.
Speaking to a rally outside the plant on May 3, August Spies advised the striking workers to “hold together, to stand by their union, or they would not succeed.” Well-planned and coordinated, the general strike to this point had remained largely nonviolent. When the end-of-the-workday bell sounded, however, a group of workers surged to the gates to confront the strikebreakers. Despite calls for calm by Spies, the police fired on the crowd. Two McCormick workers were killed (although some newspaper accounts said there were six fatalities). Spies would later testify, “I was very indignant. I knew from experience of the past that this butchering of people was done for the express purpose of defeating the eight-hour movement.”
Outraged by this act of police violence, local anarchists quickly printed and distributed fliers calling for a rally the following day at Haymarket Square (also called the Haymarket), which was then a bustling commercial center near the corner of Randolph Street and Desplaines Street. Printed in German and English, the fliers claimed that the police had murdered the strikers on behalf of business interests and urged workers to seek justice. The first batch of fliers contain the words Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force! When Spies saw the line, he said he would not speak at the rally unless the words were removed from the flier. All but a few hundred of the fliers were destroyed, and new fliers were printed without the offending words. More than 20,000 copies of the revised flier were distributed.
Rally at Haymarket Square
The rally began peacefully under a light rain on the evening of May 4. August Spies, Albert Parsons, and Samuel Fielden spoke to a crowd estimated variously between 600 and 3,000 while standing in an open wagon adjacent to the square on Des Plaines Street. A large number of on-duty police officers watched from nearby.
Paul Avrich, a historian specializing in the study of anarchism, quotes Spies as saying:
There seems to prevail the opinion in some quarters that this meeting has been called for the purpose of inaugurating a riot, hence these warlike preparations on the part of so-called ‘law and order.’ However, let me tell you at the beginning that this meeting has not been called for any such purpose. The object of this meeting is to explain the general situation of the eight-hour movement and to throw light upon various incidents in connection with it.
Following Spies’ speech, the crowd was addressed by Parsons, the Alabama-born editor of the radical English-language weekly The Alarm. The crowd was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early. Parsons spoke for almost an hour before standing down in favor of the last speaker of the evening, the British socialist Samuel Fielden, who delivered a brief ten-minute address. Many of the crowd had already left as the weather was deteriorating.
A New York Times article, with the dateline May 4, and headlined “Rioting and Bloodshed in the Streets of Chicago … Twelve Policemen Dead or Dying”, reported that Fielden spoke for 20 minutes, alleging that his words grew “wilder and more violent as he proceeded”. Another New York Times article, headlined “Anarchy’s Red Hand” and dated May 6, opens with: “The villainous teachings of the Anarchists bore bloody fruit in Chicago tonight and before daylight at least a dozen stalwart men will have laid down their lives as a tribute to the doctrine of Herr Johann Most.” It referred to the strikers as a “mob” and used quotation marks around the term “workingmen.”
Bombing and gunfire
At about 10:30 pm, just as Fielden was finishing his speech, police arrived en masse, marching in formation towards the speakers’ wagon, and ordered the rally to disperse. Fielden insisted that the meeting was peaceful. Police Inspector John Bonfield, proclaimed:
I command you [addressing the speaker] in the name of the law to desist and you [addressing the crowd] to disperse.
A home-made bomb with a brittle metal casing filled with dynamite and ignited by a fuse was thrown into the path of the advancing police. Its fuse briefly sputtered, then the bomb exploded, killing policeman Mathias J. Degan with flying metal fragments and mortally wounding six other officers.
Witnesses maintained that immediately after the bomb blast there was an exchange of gunshots between police and demonstrators. Accounts vary widely as to who fired first and whether any of the crowd fired at the police. Historian Paul Avrich maintains that the police fired on the fleeing demonstrators, reloaded and then fired again, killing four and wounding as many as 70 people. What is not disputed is that in less than five minutes the square was empty except for the casualties. According to the May 4 New York Times demonstrators began firing at the police, who then returned fire. In his report on the incident, Inspector Bonfield wrote that he “gave the order to cease firing, fearing that some of our men, in the darkness might fire into each other”. An anonymous police official told the Chicago Tribune, “A very large number of the police were wounded by each other’s revolvers. … It was every man for himself, and while some got two or three squares away, the rest emptied their revolvers, mainly into each other.”
In all, seven policemen and at least four workers were killed. Another policeman died two years after the incident from complications related to injuries received on that day. About 60 policemen were wounded in the incident. They were carried, along with some other wounded people, into a nearby police station. Police captain Michael Schaack later wrote that the number of wounded workers was “largely in excess of that on the side of the police”. The Chicago Herald described a scene of “wild carnage” and estimated at least fifty dead or wounded civilians lay in the streets. It is unclear how many civilians were wounded since many were afraid to seek medical attention, fearing arrest. They found aid where they could.
Aftermath and red scare
A harsh anti-union clampdown followed the Haymarket incident. There was a massive outpouring of community and business support for the police and many thousands of dollars were donated to funds for their medical care and to assist their efforts. The entire labor and immigrant community, particularly Germans and Bohemians, came under suspicion. Police raids were carried out on homes and offices of suspected anarchists. Scores of suspects, many only remotely related to the Haymarket affair, were arrested. Casting legal requirements such as search warrants aside, Chicago police squads subjected the labor activists of Chicago to an eight-week shakedown, ransacking their meeting halls and places of business. The emphasis was on the speakers at the Haymarket rally and the newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung. A small group of anarchists were discovered to have been engaged in making bombs on the same day as the incident, including round ones like the one used in Haymarket Square.
Newspaper reports declared that anarchist agitators were to blame for the “riot”, a view adopted by an alarmed public. As time passed, press reports and illustrations of the incident became more elaborate. Coverage was national, then international. Among property owners, the press, and other elements of society, a consensus developed that suppression of anarchist agitation was necessary. While for their part, union organizations such as The Knights of Labor and craft unions were quick to disassociate themselves from the anarchist movement and to repudiate violent tactics as self-defeating. Many workers, on the other hand, believed that men of the Pinkerton agency were responsible because of the agency’s tactic of secretly infiltrating labor groups and its sometimes violent methods of strike breaking.
The police assumed that an anarchist had thrown the bomb as part of a planned conspiracy; their problem was how to prove it. On the morning of May 5, they raided the offices of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, arresting its editor August Spies, and his brother (who was not charged). Also arrested were editorial assistant Michael Schwab and Adolph Fischer, a typesetter. A search of the premises resulted in the discovery of the “Revenge Poster” and other evidence considered incriminating by the prosecution.
On May 7 police searched the premises of Louis Lingg where they found a number of bombs and bomb-making materials. Lingg’s landlord William Seliger was also arrested but cooperated with police and identified Lingg as a bomb maker and was not charged. An associate of Spies, Balthazar Rau, suspected as the bomber, was traced to Omaha and brought back to Chicago. After interrogation, Rau offered to cooperate with police. He alleged that the defendants had experimented with dynamite bombs and accused them of having published what he said was a code word, “Ruhe” (“peace”), in the Arbeiter-Zeitung as a call to arms at Haymarket Square.
Rudolf Schnaubelt, the police’s lead suspect as the bomb thrower, was arrested twice early on and released. By May 14, when it became apparent he had played a significant role in the event, he had fled the country. William Seliger, who had turned state’s evidence and testified for the prosecution, was not charged. On June 4, 1886, seven other suspects, however, were indicted by the grand jury and stood trial for being accessories to the murder of Degan. Of these, only two had been present when the bomb exploded. Newspaper editor August Spies and Samuel Fielden had spoken at the peaceful rally and were stepping down from the speaker’s wagon in compliance with police orders to disperse just before the bomb went off. Two others had been present at the beginning of the rally but had left and were at Zepf’s Hall, an anarchist rendezvous, at the time of the explosion. They were: Arbeiter-Zeitung typesetter Adolph Fischer and the well-known activist Albert Parsons, who had spoken for an hour at the Haymarket rally before going to Zepf’s. Parsons, who believed that the evidence against them all was weak, subsequently voluntarily turned himself in, in solidarity with the accused. A third man, Spies’s assistant editor Michael Schwab (who was the brother-in-law of Schnaubelt) was arrested since he was speaking at another rally at the time of the bombing (he was also later pardoned). Not directly tied to the Haymarket rally, but arrested because they were notorious for their militant radicalism were George Engel (who was at home playing cards on that day), and Lousi Lingg, the hot-headed bomb maker denounced by his associate, Seliger. Another defendant who had not been present that day was Oscar Neebe, an American-born citizen of German descent who was associated with the Arbeiter-Zeitung and had attempted to revive it in the aftermath of the Haymarket riot.
Of the eight defendants, five – Spies, Fischer, Engel, Lingg and Schwab – were German-born immigrants; a sixth, Neebe, was a U.S.-born citizen of German descent. Only the remaining two, Parsons and Fielden, born in the U.S. and England, respectively, were of British heritage.
The trial, Illinois vs. August Spies et al., began on June 21, 1886, and went on until August 11. The trial was conducted in an atmosphere of extreme prejudice by both public and media toward the defendants. It was presided over by Judge Joseph Gary. Judge Gary displayed open hostility to the defendants, consistently ruled for the prosecution, and failed to maintain decorum. A motion to try the defendants separately was denied. The defense counsel included Sigmund Zeisler, William Perkins Black, William Foster, and Moses Salomon. Selection of the jury was extraordinarily difficult, lasting three weeks, and nearly one thousand people called. All union members and anyone who expressed sympathy toward socialism were dismissed. In the end a jury of 12 was seated, most of whom confessed prejudice towards the defendants. Despite their professions of prejudice Judge Gary seated those who declared that despite their prejudices they would acquit if the evidence supported it, refusing to dismiss for prejudice. Eventually the peremptory challenges of the defense were exhausted. Frustrated by the hundreds of jurors who were being dismissed, a bailiff was appointed who selected jurors rather than calling them at random. The bailiff proved prejudiced himself and selected jurors who seemed likely to convict based on their social position and attitudes toward the defendants. The prosecution, led by Julius Grinnell, argued that since the defendants had not actively discouraged the person who had thrown the bomb, they were therefore equally responsible as conspirators. The jury heard the testimony of 118 people, including 54 members of the Chicago Police Department and the defendants Fielden, Schwab, Spies and Parsons. Albert Parsons’ brother claimed there was evidence linking the Pinkertons to the bomb. This reflected a widespread belief among the strikers.
Exhibit 129a from the Haymarket trial: Chemists testified that the bombs found in Lingg’s apartment, including this one, resembled the chemical signature of shrapnel from the Haymarket bomb.
Police investigators under Captain Michael Schaack had a lead fragment removed from a policeman’s wounds chemically analyzed. They reported that the lead used in the casing matched the casings of bombs found in Lingg’s home. A metal nut and fragments of the casing taken from the wound also roughly matched bombs made by Lingg. Schaack concluded, on the basis of interviews, that the anarchists had been experimenting for years with dynamite and other explosives, refining the design of their bombs before coming up with the effective one used at the Haymarket.
At the last minute, when it was discovered that instructions for manslaughter had not been included in the submitted instructions, the jury was called back, and the instructions were given.
Verdict and contemporary reactions
The jury returned guilty verdicts for all eight defendants. Before being sentenced, Neebe told the court that Schaack’s officers were among the city’s worst gangs, ransacking houses and stealing money and watches. Schaack laughed and Neebe retorted, “You need not laugh about it, Captain Schaack. You are one of them. You are an anarchist, as you understand it. You are all anarchists, in this sense of the word, I must say.” Judge Gary sentenced seven of the defendants to death by hanging and Neebe to 15 years in prison. The sentencing provoked outrage from labor and workers’ movements and their supporters, resulting in protests around the world, and elevating the defendants to the status of martyrs, especially abroad. Portrayals of the anarchists as bloodthirsty foreign fanatics in the press along with the 1889 publication of Captain Schaack’s sensational account, Anarchy and Anarchism, on the other hand, inspired widespread public fear and revulsion against the strikers and general anti-immigrant feeling, polarizing public opinion.
In an article datelined May 4, entitled “Anarchy’s Red Hand”, The New York Times had described the incident as the “bloody fruit” of “the villainous teachings of the Anarchists.” The Chicago Times described the defendants as “arch counselors of riot, pillage, incendiarism and murder”; other reporters described them as “bloody brutes”, “red ruffians”, “dynamarchists”, “bloody monsters”, “cowards”, “cutthroats”, “thieves”, “assassins”, and “fiends”. The journalist George Frederic Parsons wrote a piece for The Atlantic Monthly in which he identified the fears of middle-class Americans concerning labor radicalism, and asserted that the workers had only themselves to blame for their troubles. Edward Aveling remarked, “If these men are ultimately hanged, it will be the Chicago Tribune that has done it.” Schaack, who had led the investigation, was dismissed from the police force for allegedly having fabricated evidence in the case but was reinstated in 1892.
The case was appealed in 1887 to the Supreme Court of Illinois, then to the United States Supreme Court where the defendants were represented by John Randolph Tucker, Roger Atkinson Pryor, General Benjamin F. Butler and William P. Black. and The petition for certiorari was denied.
Commutations and suicide
After the appeals had been exhausted, Illinois Governor Richard James Oglesby commuted Fielden’s and Schwab’s sentences to life in prison on November 10, 1887. On the eve of his scheduled execution, Lingg committed suicide in his cell with a smuggled blasting cap which he reportedly held in his mouth like a cigar (the blast blew off half his face and he survived in agony for six hours).
The next day (November 11, 1887) four defendants—Engel, Fischer, Parsons, and Spies—were taken to the gallows in white robes and hoods. They sang the Marseillaise, then the anthem of the international revolutionary movement. Family members including Lucy Parsons, who attempted to see them for the last time, were arrested and searched for bombs (none were found). According to witnesses, in the moments before the men were hanged, Spies shouted, “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.” In their last words, Engel and Fischer called out, “Hurrah for anarchism!” Parsons then requested to speak, but he was cut off when the signal was given to open the trap door. Witnesses reported that the condemned men did not die immediately when they dropped, but strangled to death slowly, a sight which left the spectators visibly shaken.
Identity of the bomber
Notwithstanding the convictions for conspiracy, no actual bomber was ever brought to trial, “and no lawyerly explanation could ever make a conspiracy trial without the main perpetrator in the conspiracy seem completely legitimate.” Historians such as James Joll and Timothy Messer-Kruse say the evidence points to Rudolph Schnaubelt, brother-in-law of Schwab, as the likely perpetrator. Howard Zinn, in A People’s History of the United States also pointed towards Schnaubelt, suggesting he was a provocateur, posing as an anarchist, who threw the bomb so police would have a pretext to arrest leaders of Chicago’s anarchist movement. However, Paul Avrich disputes this claim as being “sheer speculation and utterly without foundation.” Avrich argues that Schnaubelt’s appearance did not match the description of the bomber and that his behavior was inconsistent with either being the culprit or a mole.
An extensive collection of documents relating to the Haymarket affair and the legal proceedings related to it, The Haymarket Affair Digital Collection, has been created by the Chicago Historical Society.
Pardon and historical characterization
The Altgeld Monument, by Borglum, was erected by the Illinois Legislature in Lincoln Park, Chicago in 1915.
Among supporters of the labor movement in the United States and abroad and others, the trial was widely believed to have been unfair, and even a serious miscarriage of justice. Prominent people such as novelist William Dean Howells; celebrated attorney Clarence Darrow; poet and playwright Oscar Wilde; and playwright George Benard Shaw strongly condemned it. On June 26, 1893, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld, the progressive governor of Illinois, himself a German immigrant, signed pardons for Fielden, Neebe, and Schwab, calling them victims of “hysteria, packed juries, and a biased judge” and noting that the state “has never discovered who it was that threw the bomb which killed the policeman, and the evidence does not show any connection whatsoever between the defendants and the man who threw it.” Altgeld also faulted the city of Chicago for failing to hold Pinkerton guards responsible for repeated use of lethal violence against striking workers. Altgeld’s actions concerning labor were used to defeat his reelection.
Soon after the trial, anarchist Dyer Lum wrote a history of the trial critical of the prosecution. In 1888, George McLean, and in 1889, police captain Michael Shack, wrote accounts from the opposite perspective. Awaiting sentencing, each of the defendants wrote their own autobiographies (edited and published by Philip Foner in 1969), and later activist Lucy Parsons published a biography of her condemned husband Albert Parsons. Fifty years after the event, Henry Davis wrote a history, which preceded another scholarly treatment by Paul Avrich in 1984, and a “social history” of the era by Bruce C. Nelson in 1988. In 2006, labor historian James Green wrote a popular history.
Christopher Thale writes in the Encyclopedia of Chicago that lacking credible evidence regarding the bombing, “…the prosecution focused on the writings and speeches of the defendants.” He further notes that the conspiracy charge was legally unprecedented, the Judge was “partisan,” and all the jurors admitted prejudice against the defendants. Historian Carl Smith writes, “The visceral feelings of fear and anger surrounding the trial ruled out anything but the pretense of justice right from the outset.” Smith notes that scholars have long considered the trial a “notorious” “miscarriage of justice.” In a review somewhat more critical of the defendants, historian Jon Teaford concludes that “[t]he tragedy of Haymarket is the American justice system did not protect the damn fools who most needed that protection… It is the damn fools who talk too much and too wildly who are most in need of protection from the state.” In 2011, labor historian Tomothy Messer-Kruse published a history. Based on his examination of the trial transcripts and other archival material, he concludes there is abundant evidence connecting defendants to advocacy of violence and preparations for it. He argues that Chicago’s anarchists were indeed “part of an international terrorist network and did hatch a conspiracy to attack police with bombs and guns that May Day weekend”; and he calls the evidence establishing the guilt of “most of the defendants” “overwhelming.” Moreover, Messer-Kruse opines that the trial was fair “by the standards of the age” and the jury representative. According to him, “The tragic end of the story was the product not of prosecutorial eagerness to see the anarchists hang, but largely due to a combination of the incompetence of the defendant’s lawyers and their willingness to use the trial to vindicate anarchism rather than to save the necks of their clients.
During the late 20th century, scholars doing research into the Haymarket affair were surprised to learn that much of the primary source documentation relating to the incident (beside materials concerning the trial) was not in Chicago, but had been transferred to then-communist East Berlin.
Effects on the labor movement and May Day
The Haymarket affair was a setback for the American labor movement and its fight for the eight-hour day. Yet it also can be seen as strengthening its resistance, especially in Chicago, where, as historian Nathan Fine points out, trade union activities continued to show signs of growth and vitality, culminating later in 1886 with the establishment of the Labor Party of Chicago.
[T]he fact is that despite police repression, newspaper incitement to hysteria, and organization of the possessing classes, which followed the throwing of the bomb on May 4, the Chicago wage earners only united their forces and stiffened their resistance. The conservative and radical central bodies – there were two each of the trade unions and two also of the Knights of Labor — the socialists and the anarchists, the single taxers and the reformers, the native born…and the foreign born Germans, Bohemians, and Scandinavians, all got together for the first time on the political field in the summer following the Haymarket affair…. [T]he Knights of Labor doubled its membership, reaching 40,000 in the fall of 1886. On Labor Day the number of Chicago workers in parade led the country.
On the first anniversary of the event, May 4, 1887, the New York Tribune published an interview with Senator Leland Stanford, in which he addressed the consensus that “the conflict between capital and labor is intensifying” and articulated the vision advocated by the Knights of Labor for an industrial system of worker-owned co-operatives, another among the strategies pursued to advance the conditions of laborers. The interview was republished as a pamphlet to include the bill Stanford introduced in the Senate to foster co-operatives.
Popular pressure continued for the establishment of the 8-hour day. At the convention of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1888, the union decided to campaign for the shorter workday again. May 1, 1890, was agreed upon as the date on which workers would strike for an eight-hour work day.
In 1889, AFL president Samuel Gompers wrote to the first congress of the Second International, which was meeting in Paris. He informed the world’s socialists of the AFL’s plans and proposed an international fight for a universal eight-hour work day. In response to Gompers’s letter, the Second International adopted a resolution calling for “a great international demonstration” on a single date so workers everywhere could demand the eight-hour work day. In light of the Americans’ plan, the International adopted May 1, 1890 as the date for this demonstration.
A secondary purpose behind the adoption of the resolution by the Second International was to honor the memory of the Haymarket martyrs and other workers who had been killed in association with the strikes on May 1, 1886. Historian Philip Foner writes “[t]here is little doubt that everyone associated with the resolution passed by the Paris Congress knew of the May 1 demonstrations and strikes for the eight-hour day in 1886 in the United States … and the events associated with the Haymarket tragedy.”
The first international May Day was a spectacular success. The front page of the New York World on May 2, 1890, was devoted to coverage of the event. Two of its headlines were “Parade of Jubilant Workingmen in All the Trade Centers of the Civilized World” and “Everywhere the Workmen Join in Demands for a Normal Day.” The Times of London listed two dozen European cities in which demonstrations had taken place, noting there had been rallies in Cuba, Peru and Chile. Commemoration of May Day became an annual event the following year.
The association of May Day with the Haymarket martyrs has remained strong in Mexico. Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was in Mexico on May 1, 1921, and wrote of the “day of ‘fiestas'” that marked “the killing of the workers in Chicago for demanding the eight-hour day”. In 1929 The New York Times referred to the May Day parade in Mexico City as “the annual demonstration glorifying the memory of those who were killed in Chicago in 1887.” The New York Times described the 1936 demonstration as a commemoration of “the death of the martyrs in Chicago.” In 1939 Oscar Neebe’s grandson attended the May Day parade in Mexico City and was shown, as his host told him, “how the world shows respect to your grandfather”.
The influence of the Haymarket affair was not limited to the celebration of May Day. Emma Goldman, the activist and political theorist, was attracted to anarchism after reading about the incident and the executions, which she later described as “the events that had inspired my spiritual birth and growth.” She considered the Haymarket martyrs to be “the most decisive influence in my existence”. Her associate, Alexander Berkman also described the Haymarket anarchists as “a potent and vital inspiration.” Others whose commitment to anarchism, or revolutionary socialism, crystallized as a result of the Haymarket affair included Voltairine de Cleyre and “Big Bill” Haywood, a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World. Goldman wrote to historian Max Nettlau that the Haymarket affair had awakened the social consciousness of “hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people”.
While admitting none of the defendants were involved in the bombing, the prosecution made the argument that Lingg had built the bomb and two prosecution witnesses (Harry Gilmer and Malvern Thompson) tried to imply the bomb thrower was helped by Spies, Fischer and Schwab. The defendants claimed they had no knowledge of the bomber at all.
Several activists, including Dyer Lum (a close associate of the defendants who wrote an account of the case in 1891), Voltairine de Cleyre and Robert Reitzel, later hinted they knew who the bomber was. Writers and other commentators have speculated about many possible suspects:
Rudolph Schnaubelt was indicted but fled the country. From this photograph, a prosecution witness identified Schnaubelt as the bomber.
- Rudolph Schnaubelt (1863–1901) was an activist and the brother-in law of Michael Schwab. He was at the Haymarket when the bomb exploded. Schnaubelt was indicted with the other defendants but fled the city and later the country before he could be brought to trial. He was the detectives’ lead suspect, and state witness Gilmer testified he saw Schnaubelt throw the bomb, identifying him from a photograph in court. Schnaubelt later sent two letters from London disclaiming all responsibility, writing, “If I had really thrown this bomb, surely I would have nothing to be ashamed of, but in truth I never once thought of it.” He is the most generally accepted and widely known suspect and figured as the bomb thrower in The Bomb, Frank Harris’s 1908 fictionalization of the tragedy. Written from Schnaubelt’s point of view, the story opens with him confessing on his deathbed. However, Harris’s description was fictional and those who knew Schnaubelt vehemently criticized the book.
- George Schwab was a German shoemaker who died in 1924. German anarchist Carl Nold claimed he learned Schwab was the bomber through correspondence with other activists but no proof ever emerged. Historian Paul Avrich also suspected him but noted that while Schwab was in Chicago, he had only arrived days before. This contradicted statements by others that the bomber was a well-known figure in Chicago.
- George Meng (b. around 1840) was a German anarchist and teamster who owned a small farm outside of Chicago where he had settled in 1883 after emigrating from Bavaria. Like Parsons and Spies, he was a delegate at the Pittsburgh Congress and a member of the IWPA. Meng’s granddaughter, Adah Maurer, wrote Paul Avrich a letter in which she said that her mother, who was 15 at the time of the bombing, told her that her father was the bomber. Meng died sometime before 1907 in a saloon fire. Based on his correspondence with Maurer, Avrich concluded that there was a “strong possibility” that the little-known Meng may have been the bomber.
- An agent provocateur was suggested by some members of the anarchist movement. Albert Parsons believed the bomber was a member of the police or the Pinkertons trying to undermine the labor movement. However, this contradicts the statements of several activists who said the bomber was one of their own. Lucy Parsons and Johann Most rejected this notion. Dyer Lum said it was “puerile” to ascribe “the Haymarket bomb to a Pinkerton.”
- A disgruntled worker was widely suspected. When Adolph Fischer was asked if he knew who threw the bomb, he answered, “I suppose it was some excited workingman.” Oscar Neebe said it was a “crank.” Governor Altgeld speculated the bomb thrower might have been a disgruntled worker who was not associated with the defendants or the anarchist movement but had a personal grudge against the police. In his pardoning statement, Altgeld said the record of police brutality towards the workers had invited revenge adding, “Capt. Bonfield is the man who is really responsible for the deaths of the police officers.”
- Klemana Schuetz was identified as the bomber by Franz Mayhoff, a New York anarchist and fraudster, who claimed in an affidavit that Schuetz had once admitted throwing the Haymarket bomb. August Wagener, Mayhoff’s attorney, sent a telegram from New York to defense attorney Captain William Black the day before the executions claiming knowledge of the bomber’s identity. Black tried to delay the execution with this telegram but Governor Oglesby refused. It was later learned that Schuetz was the primary witness against Mayhoff at his trial for insurance fraud, so Mayhoff’s affidavit has never been regarded as credible by historians.
- Thomas Owen was a carpenter from Pennsylvania. Severely injured in an accident a week before the executions, Owen reportedly confessed to the bombing on his deathbed by saying, “I was at the Haymarket riot and am an anarchist and say that I threw a bomb in that riot.” He was an anarchist and apparently had been in Chicago at the time but other accounts note that long before his accident he had said he was at the Haymarket and saw the bomb thrower. Owen may have been trying to save the condemned men.
- Reinold “Big” Krueger was killed by police either in the melee after the bombing or in a separate disturbance the next day and has been named as a suspect but there is no supporting evidence.
- A mysterious outsider was reported by John Philip Deluse, a saloon keeper in Indianapolis who claimed he encountered a stranger in his saloon the day before the bombing. The man was carrying a satchel and on his way from New York to Chicago. According to Deluse, the stranger was interested in the labor situation in Chicago, repeatedly pointed to his satchel and said, “You will hear of some trouble there very soon.” Parsons used Deluse’s testimony to suggest the bomb thrower was sent by eastern capitalists. Nothing more was ever learned about Deluse’s claim.
Burial and monument
Lingg, Spies, Fischer, Engel, and Parsons were buried at the German Waldheim Cemetary (later merged with Forest Home Cemetery) in Forest Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Schwab and Neebe were also buried at Waldheim when they died, reuniting the “Martyrs.” In 1893, the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument by sculptor Albert Weinert was raised at Waldheim. Over a century later, it was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior.
Throughout the 20th century, activists such as Emma Goldman chose to be buried near the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument graves.
In October 2016, a time capsule with materials relating to the Haymarket Affair was dug up in Waldheim Cemetery.
In 1889, a commemorative nine-foot (2.7 meter) bronze statue of a Chicago policeman by sculptor Johannes Gelert was erected in the middle of Haymarket Square with private funds raised by the Union League Club of Chicago. The statue was unveiled on May 30, 1889, by Frank Degan, the son of Officer Mathias Degan. On May 4, 1927, the 41st anniversary of the Haymarket affair, a streetcar jumped its tracks and crashed into the monument. The motorman said he was “sick of seeing that policeman with his arm raised”. The city restored the statue in 1928 and moved it to Union Park. During the 1950s, construction of the Kennedy Expressway erased about half of the old, run-down market square, and in 1956, the statue was moved to a special platform built for it overlooking the freeway, near its original location.
The statue-less pedestal of the police monument on the 100th anniversary of the Haymarket affair in May 1986; the pedestal has since been removed.
The Haymarket statue was vandalized with black paint on May 4, 1968, the 82nd anniversary of the Haymarket affair, following a confrontation between police and demonstrators at a protest against the Vietnam War. On October 6, 1969, shortly before the “Days of Rage” protests, the statue was destroyed when a bomb was placed between its legs. Weatherman took credit for the blast, which broke nearly 100 windows in the neighborhood and scattered pieces of the statue onto the Kennedy Expressway below. The statue was rebuilt and unveiled on May 4, 1970, to be blown up yet again by Weatherman on October 6, 1970. The statue was rebuilt, again, and Mayor Richard J. Daley posted a 24‑hour police guard at the statue. This guard cost $67,440 per year. In 1972, it was moved to the lobby of the Central Police Headquarters, and in 1976 to the enclosed courtyard of the Chicago police academy. For another three decades the statue’s empty, graffiti-marked pedestal stood on its platform in the run-down remains of Haymarket Square where it was known as an anarchist landmark. On June 1, 2007, the statue was rededicated at Chicago Police Headquarters with a new pedestal, unveiled by Geraldine Doceka, Officer Mathias Degan’s great-granddaughter.
In 1992, the site of the speakers’ wagon was marked by a bronze plaque set into the sidewalk, reading:
“A decade of strife between labor and industry culminated here in a confrontation that resulted in the tragic death of both workers and policemen. On May 4, 1886, spectators at a labor rally had gathered around the mouth of Crane’s Alley. A contingent of police approaching on Des Plaines Street were met by a bomb thrown from just south of the alley. The resultant trial of eight activists gained worldwide attention for the labor movement, and initiated the tradition of ‘May Day’ labor rallies in many cities.”
Designated on March 25, 1992
Richard M. Daley, Mayor
On September 14, 2004, Daley and union leaders—including the president of Chicago’s police union—unveiled a monument by Chicago artist Mary Brogger, a fifteen-foot (4.5 m) speakers’ wagon sculpture echoing the wagon on which the labor leaders stood in Haymarket Square to champion the eight-hour day. The bronze sculpture, intended to be the centerpiece of a proposed “Labor Park”, is meant to symbolize both the rally at Haymarket and free speech. The planned site was to include an international commemoration wall, sidewalk plaques, a cultural pylon, a seating area, and banners, but construction has not yet begun.
As of 2016, a feature motion picture is being produced about the Haymarket affair, the events leading up to it, and its aftermath.
Rank and FileCA.
The history behind Canada’s National Day of Mourning
Posted on April 28, 2017 in Day of Mourning, Injured Workers
By Dorothy Wigmore
April 28 has many names. In Canada, it’s the Day of Mourning. In the United States and the United Kingdom, it’s Workers’ Memorial Day. The International Labour Organization calls it the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Marked around the world, there’s confusion about its origins, even in Canada.
Around 1983, the health and safety director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Colin Lambert, and his long-time friend and fellow activist, Ray Sentes, came up with the idea of a day to recognize workers killed and injured on the job.
As a steelworker and miner in Sudbury, Ontario, Lambert was instrumental in having mandatory coroners’ inquests for all miners’ deaths in Ontario. He also lamented the contrast between the lack of recognition for miners and other workers who died because of their work and the large public events for “fallen” police officers and firefighters.
Lambert “floated the idea” with CUPE’s national health and safety committee, talking about a special day of recognition for workers killed and injured on the job, to be held on May 1 (celebrated as May Day in Europe and elsewhere). The committee endorsed the idea. At its 1984 convention, union delegates supported the proposal. Soon after, some CUPE locals started negotiating events, such as lowered flags and moments of silence.
In 1984 and 1985, CUPE representatives took the idea to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) executive and its national health and safety committee. Local unions also sent resolutions to the CLC.
In February 1986, the CLC announced the first Day of Mourning, coinciding with the first day of its convention that year. Rather than May 1, they chose the date when the Ontario legislature passed the country’s first workers compensation law, in 1914. The convention passed a resolution supporting April 28 as a day to “mourn for the dead and fight for the living.”
In 1990, Lambert and CUPE pushed for innovative ways to recognize the day. April 28 could be a “year-round series of public events”, not just a Day of Mourning. We can attract “broad public recognition for the day by adopting a universal, unthreatening symbol of worker safety, the canary.”
“The canary’s an appropriate symbol,” Lambert said. “It shows that today workers are the canaries — they are front-line protection for all of us.” The canary also showed up in the CLC’s new poster for April 28.
Lambert and others saw the potential for a day of “preventive action for workers which will be recognized by society in general.” They called on CUPE locals to have activities in the week heading up to the 28th. They sent a package with a new poster — introducing the canary symbol — and a special issue of the health and safety newsletter. There also was a workplace inspection checklist and calls for locals to campaign for government recognition of the day, and to bargain or ask employers for a moment’s silence at 11 a.m. on April 28.
CUPE members and others responded with enthusiasm. The British Columbia CUPE health and safety committee had a “Spot the Hazard” campaign for workplace inspections. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Federation of Labour and CUPE produced tags with the canary symbol and “Day of Mourning, April 28”. They sold them with members of the local professional football team and the Boys and Girls Club, with proceeds to the Club. In Windsor, Ontario, more than 300 people marched to the Ministry of Labour to lay a wreath and release black balloons inscribed with “We came here to work, not to die”.
The campaign for government recognition paid off. In February 1991, the Canadian government passed a private member’s bill, naming April 28 as the “Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace.” Provincial and municipal governments also recognize the day.
These efforts and many others inspired trade unions and health and safety activists and around the world. Monuments and plaques are some of the most common responses. There were so many by 2001 that Ed Thomas of Hamilton wrote a book about them . The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) put some of his pictures on a web page.
The campaign for recognition of the day has been successful. Now, what about the goals behind it?
This article was first published in the Occupational Health and Safety Section Newsletter, Spring 2010, of the American Public Health Association.
 E. Thomas, Dead But Not Forgotten: Monuments to Workers. Ed Thomas, 2001.
The Bloody Story of How May Day Became a Holiday for Workers
Lily Rothman May 01, 2015
Celebrations on May 1 have long had two, seemingly contradictory meanings. On one hand, May Day is known for maypoles, flowers and welcoming the spring. On the other hand, it’s a day of worker solidarity and protest; though the U.S. observes its official Labor Day in September, many countries will celebrate Labor Day on Friday.
How did that happen?
Like so many historical twists, by complete accident. As TIME explained in 1929, “To old-fashioned people, May Day means flowers, grass, picnics, children, clean frocks. To up-and-doing Socialists and Communists it means speechmaking, parading, bombs, brickbats, conscientious violence. This connotation dates back to May Day, 1886, when some 200,000 U. S. workmen engineered a nationwide strike for an eight-hour day.”
The May 1, 1886, labor action wasn’t just any strike—it was part of what became known as the Haymarket affair. On May 1 of that year, Chicago (along with other cities) was the site of a major union demonstration in support of the eight-hour workday. The Chicago protests were meant to be part of several days of action. On May 3, a strike at the McCormick Reaper plant in the city turned violent; the next day, a peaceful meeting at Haymarket Square became even more so. Here’s how TIME summed it up in 1938:
A few minutes after ten o’clock on the night of May 4, 1886, a storm began to blow up in Chicago. As the first drops of rain fell, a crowd in Haymarket Square, in the packing house district, began to break up. At eight o’clock there had been 3,000 persons on hand, listening to anarchists denounce the brutality of the police and demand the eight-hour day, but by ten there were only a few hundred. The mayor, who had waited around in expectation of trouble, went home, and went to bed. The last speaker was finishing his talk when a delegation of 180 policemen marched from the station a block away to break up what remained of the meeting. They stopped a short distance from the speaker’s wagon. As a captain ordered the meeting to disperse, and the speaker cried out that it was a peaceable gathering, a bomb exploded in the police ranks. It wounded 67 policemen, of whom seven died. The police opened fire, killing several men and wounding 200, and the Haymarket Tragedy became a part of U. S. history.
In 1889, the International Socialist Conference declared that, in commemoration of the Haymarket affair, May 1 would be an international holiday for labor, now known in many places as International Workers’ Day.
In the U.S., that holiday came in for particular contempt during the anti-communist fervor of the early Cold War. In July of 1958, President Eisenhower signed a resolution named May 1 “Loyalty Day” in an attempt to avoid any hint of solidarity with the “workers of the world” on May Day. The resolution declared that it would be “a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States of America and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.”
What is May Day, anyway?
AJ Willingham, CNN May 2, 2016
- May Day falls on May 1 every year
- It is a holiday of summer celebration, but also marks International Worker’s Day
(CNN)To most people in the Northern Hemisphere, May Day conjures images of brightly colored twirling ribbons and promises of warm days ahead. That’s not the whole story, though: May Day is also a day of protests and riots that traces its modern roots back to a world-changing explosion in Chicago.
When is May Day?
May Day is May 1 every year. Easy to remember, right?
What is May Day?
Depending on where you are, it’s either a seasonal celebration or a day to celebrate workers’ rights, or maybe a little bit of both. Think of the latter use as a Labor Day, if you will, for the rest of the world.
How did it start?
This is a more complicated question. Originally, May Day was an ancient pagan holiday celebrating the start of summer. In Gaelic traditions, it is known as Beltaine (or the Anglicized “Beltane”). As time went on, different groups adapted the celebration to their specific cultures or beliefs. Europeans and Americans often celebrate in a more secular manner with diversions like maypole dancing and flower crowns. (That certainly lends a bit of cultural context to all the young women breezing around summer music festivals this time of year with giant daisies on their heads.)
Also of note: In May, the Southern Hemisphere is getting ready for winter, so May Day as a seasonal celebration is, for the most part, a Northern Hemisphere thing.
How did it become a day for labor rights?
May Day is also a labor holiday in many areas of the world, and that part of its history is a thornier story. May Day has shared a date with International Workers’ Day since the 1880s. At the time, labor movements around the world were fighting for fair work accommodations like eight-hour workdays and unions. The date was chosen because it aligned with the anniversary of the Haymarket affair in Chicago, where police killed four people at a peaceful protest after someone threw a bomb into the crowd.
The event had a huge impact on labor movements across the world.
So why are there sometimes riots and marches on May Day?
Because of its more recent history, International Workers’ Day/May Day is often a day of protest for labor unions around the world. The people come come out to rally, and sometimes their passionate demonstrations can turn violent. In 2014, Turkey attempted to ban labor rallies, citing security concerns. Across Europe, similar events have attracted heavy police presence.
Riots and protests occur in the United States, as well. One of the most notable is the Seattle May Day Marches, which, though intended to be peaceful, have broken out in violence in the past.
In a strange way, some of these demonstrations overlap with the more festive roots of May Day: The planned protests in Seattle include a rock concert, and the long-running May Day Parade in Minneapolis features both colorful, festive floats and revelers who wear satirical costumes related to the labor and political issues of the day.
Is this related to the “Mayday! Mayday!” distress call?
It’s actually not at all! “Mayday” the distress call comes from the French term m’aidez, which means “help me.”
Nothing wrong with a little French lesson to go along with the holiday’s history!
International Workers of the World
The Brief Origins of May Day
By Eric Chase – 1993.
Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers’ Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don’t realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as “American” as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.
In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Jack London’s The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860’s, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn’t until the late 1880’s that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class. At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people, many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers’ lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option.
A variety of socialist organizations sprung up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. But again, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi-partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke ranks from their parties, rebuffed the entire political process, which was seen as nothing more than protection for the wealthy, and created anarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideals of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchical structures (including government), emphasized worker controlled industry, and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were “taken over” by anarchists and socialists, but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.
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 following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”
Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.
In a proclamation printed just before May 1, 1886, one publisher appealed to working people with this plea:
- Workingmen to Arms!
- War to the Palace, Peace to the Cottage, and Death to LUXURIOUS IDLENESS.
- The wage system is the only cause of the World’s misery. It is supported by the rich classes, and to destroy it, they must be either made to work or DIE.
- One pound of DYNAMITE is better than a bushel of BALLOTS!
- MAKE YOUR DEMAND FOR EIGHT HOURS with weapons in your hands to meet the capitalistic bloodhounds, police, and militia in proper manner.
Not surprisingly the entire city was prepared for mass bloodshed, reminiscent of the railroad strike a decade earlier when police and soldiers gunned down hundreds of striking workers. On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike with the anarchists in the forefront of the public’s eye. With their fiery speeches and revolutionary ideology of direct action, anarchists and anarchism became respected and embraced by the working people and despised by the capitalists.
The names of many – Albert Parsons, Johann Most, August Spies and Louis Lingg – became household words in Chicago and throughout the country. Parades, bands and tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets exemplified the workers’ strength and unity, yet didn’t become violent as the newspapers and authorities predicted.
More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly 100,000, yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out at the McCormick Reaper Works between police and strikers.
For six months, armed Pinkerton agents and the police harassed and beat locked-out steelworkers as they picketed. Most of these workers belonged to the “anarchist-dominated” Metal Workers’ Union. During a speech near the McCormick plant, some two hundred demonstrators joined the steelworkers on the picket line. Beatings with police clubs escalated into rock throwing by the strikers which the police responded to with gunfire. At least two strikers were killed and an unknown number were wounded.
Full of rage, a public meeting was called by some of the anarchists for the following day in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. Due to bad weather and short notice, only about 3000 of the tens of thousands of people showed up from the day before. This affair included families with children and the mayor of Chicago himself. Later, the mayor would testify that the crowd remained calm and orderly and that speaker August Spies made “no suggestion… for immediate use of force or violence toward any person…”
As the speech wound down, two detectives rushed to the main body of police, reporting that a speaker was using inflammatory language, inciting the police to march on the speakers’ wagon. As the police began to disperse the already thinning crowd, a bomb was thrown into the police ranks. No one knows who threw the bomb, but speculations varied from blaming any one of the anarchists, to an agent provocateur working for the police.
Enraged, the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined, but an estimated seven or eight civilians died, and up to forty were wounded. One officer died immediately and another seven died in the following weeks. Later evidence indicated that only one of the police deaths could be attributed to the bomb and that all the other police fatalities had or could have had been due to their own indiscriminate gun fire. Aside from the bomb thrower, who was never identified, it was the police, not the anarchists, who perpetrated the violence.
Eight anarchists – Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg – were arrested and convicted of murder, though only three were even present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing occurred. The jury in their trial was comprised of business leaders in a gross mockery of justice similar to the Sacco-Vanzetti case thirty years later, or the trials of AIM and Black Panther members in the seventies. The entire world watched as these eight organizers were convicted, not for their actions, of which all of were innocent, but for their political and social beliefs. On November 11, 1887, after many failed appeals, Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fisher were hung to death. Louis Lingg, in his final protest of the state’s claim of authority and punishment, took his own life the night before with an explosive device in his mouth.
The remaining organizers, Fielden, Neebe and Schwab, were pardoned six years later by Governor Altgeld, who publicly lambasted the judge on a travesty of justice. Immediately after the Haymarket Massacre, big business and government conducted what some say was the very first “Red Scare” in this country. Spun by mainstream media, anarchism became synonymous with bomb throwing and socialism became un-American. The common image of an anarchist became a bearded, eastern European immigrant with a bomb in one hand and a dagger in the other.
Today we see tens of thousands of activists embracing the ideals of the Haymarket Martyrs and those who established May Day as an International Workers’ Day. Ironically, May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more, but rarely is it recognized in this country where it began.
Over one hundred years have passed since that first May Day. In the earlier part of the 20th century, the US government tried to curb the celebration and further wipe it from the public’s memory by establishing “Law and Order Day” on May 1. We can draw many parallels between the events of 1886 and today. We still have locked out steelworkers struggling for justice. We still have voices of freedom behind bars as in the cases of Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. We still had the ability to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of a major city to proclaim “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” at the WTO and FTAA demonstrations.
Words stronger than any I could write are engraved on the Haymarket Monument:
THE DAY WILL COME WHEN OUR SILENCE WILL BE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE VOICES YOU ARE THROTTLING TODAY.
Truly, history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our radicalism. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted – people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we’ll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.
Washington Post House Republicans just voted to change overtime rules for workers
By Jena McGregor May 2, 2017
On Tuesday afternoon, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill that Republicans have promoted since the Newt Gingrich era, one that would allow private-sector employees to exchange overtime pay for “compensatory time” off, electing to accrue extra hours off rather than extra pay in their wallets. The bill passed 229 to 197, largely along party lines.
The bill — which supporters say would add flexibility to hourly workers’ schedules while opponents worry it doesn’t do enough to protect employees — is not a new idea. It seeks to take a similar provision that has been available to government workers since 1985 and extend it to private-sector employees, making it legal for them to choose between an hour and a half of paid comp time and time-and-a-half pay when they work additional hours.
Similar bills have been introduced multiple times over the past two decades, passing the House three times before failing to pass the Senate. While its fate is unclear in the Senate this year, the White House said Tuesday it supports the bill, saying in a statement it would “help American workers balance the competing demands of family and work by giving them flexibility to earn paid time off.”
Under the proposed changes, eligible employees — if their employer decides to offer the option — would be able to voluntarily choose to receive comp time they can bank and use at a future date in lieu of immediate overtime pay in their paychecks. If they change their minds and want the pay after all, employees would have the option of “cashing out,” with the employer required to pay the overtime within 30 days.
Proponents of the bill suggest the change would improve flexibility for overtime-eligible employees — often lower-wage hourly workers who don’t have the same access to paid time off as their salaried counterparts — to take care of their families.
“Ask any parent just how precious their time is,” Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), who introduced the bill, said during debate on the House floor Tuesday. The bill, she said, “provides flexibility for working moms and dads who need more time to spend taking care of their family responsibilities.”
Some employer groups are big supporters. “It’s our strong belief that we ought to make this option available,” said Lisa Horn, director of Congressional affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management, which represents employers, in an interview. “The bill has built-in protections to make sure employees aren’t coerced into choosing comp times.”
But opponents worry those protections aren’t strong enough. Though the bill includes language that bans employers from “directly or indirectly intimidating, threatening, or coercing or attempting to intimidate, threaten, or coerce an employee” to choose comp time over pay, many Democrats and advocates for workers say they are concerned that people will feel pressure to opt for the comp time and may not have the resources to seek legal help if they are coerced.
“Under current law, if an employee wants to work overtime, put the money in the bank where it can earn interest and use it to cover the cost of taking some time off later with the permission of the employer, he can do that today — without this bill,” said Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, on the House floor Tuesday.
While employees have the choice of whether to take comp time or extra pay, opponents warn it is their bosses who makes the schedules that offer the extra hours many low-wage workers depend on.
“Whether it’s overt coercion, which language in the bill prohibits, or just a preference, there’s going to be strong incentives to giving overtime hours to workers choosing to take comp time,” said Vicki Shabo, vice president for the nonprofit advocacy group National Partnership for Women & Families.
She adds: “When you’re thinking about low-wage workers who need these jobs, the appetite to pursue [legal] remedies is going to be quite low.”
Others suggest the limitations requiring workers to give “reasonable notice” and not “unduly disrupt” the workplace with their requests for time off give employers plenty of latitude to say no.
“The reality is that it significantly shifts the balance of power and really puts the decision into the hands of the employer instead of the employee,” said Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress. “It doesn’t provide any level of assurance that the person will actually be able to use the leave for the purpose they need it.”
Democrats in the House sounded similar concerns Tuesday. “The choice between overtime pay and comp time is a false choice for workers,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) “We know what happens in the reality of the workplace. The vague promise of time off in the future is often never realized.”
Horn, the SHRM executive, said she doesn’t see that as a concern. Employers who are “going to go to this trouble of setting up this program — I think it’s highly unlikely they’re going to turn around and forbid the worker from using it,” she said. She also notes that the penalties in the bill for coercion are “stiff” and should help deter employers from it.
Jonathan Segal, a partner in the employment group of the law firm Duane Morris, agreed. Penalties such as double damages to employees, he said, means “there’s a material disincentive for employers to do the wrong thing,” he said.
(Workers endured long hours, low pay at Chinese factory used by Ivanka Trump’s clothing maker)
Still, opponents said GOP rhetoric has suggested comp time programs could be an alternative to family-friendly policies such as paid sick leave, which have been gaining ground at the state and local level in recent years. They argue that low-wage workers should not have to make the choice, as well as that sick or family leave needs often don’t come with “reasonable notice.”
“It sets up a false narrative,” Frye said. “The notion you somehow have to trade off your pay for flexibility is certainly not the way it works for higher paid employees.”
A spokesman for Roby, Todd Stacy, said such remarks are “frustrating” and noted that the current bill is not a mandate, as well as that it prohibits even indirect coercion and lets workers cash out their accrued time if they and their employer can’t agree on when the comp time is taken. “It’s not for every employer and it’s not for every employee,” he said. “It’s simply meant as an option, to legalize it in the private sector.”
The bill now faces the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn’t shared his plans on the issue, according to a report in Bloomberg. In 2013, however, he did support a version of a similar bill.
If it does ultimately become law, employers will then have to decide to offer it. Horn says that of SHRM’s 285,000 members, “I probably have just as many who would like to offer the comp time as those who would never want to pursue this option. It is a lift for employers,” she said, meaning it requires planning, expense and logistics to launch and run. “There’s the tracking of hours, and they carry the liability on their balance sheet in case there’s a cash-out. Some employers are just like ‘I would rather pay the straight option.’ ”
NPR GDP Grew Just 0.7 Percent In First Quarter Of 2017
Laurel Wamsley April 28, 2017
The U.S. economy grew at just a 0.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest report on the gross domestic product from the Commerce Department. That’s below market expectations and indicates the economy grew at the slowest pace in three years.
Weak auto sales and lower home-heating bills dragged down consumer spending, offsetting a pickup in investment led by housing and oil drilling. Employment costs rose 0.8 percent in the first quarter.
This “advance” estimate showed the U.S. economy with its slowest growth since the first quarter of 2014. The GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2016 was 2.1 percent.
The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures the prices paid for goods and services purchased by consumers, increased 2.6 percent in the first quarter. That’s compared with an increase of 2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Washington Post Trump’s new VA office to help fire feds faster also could hurt, not protect, whistleblowers
By Joe Davidson Columnist April 28, 2017
President Trump signs an executive order on improving accountability and whistleblower protection on April 27. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
President Trump is correct to hold federal employees accountable, even as he and his folks make every effort to squirm away from a steady flow of ethical quandaries.
His executive order on “Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protections” “would create an office in the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify barriers to bouncing bad workers from an agency whose ethical reputation was shredded during a scandal over the coverup of long patient wait times.
The importance of this presidential action was emphasized by Trump’s visit to the VA headquarters, just across Lafayette Square from the White House. Vice President Pence, members of Congress and veterans joined VA Secretary David Shulkin as the president signed the order Thursday afternoon.
Trump praised the “many VA employees who do a fantastic job,” a reality too often lost in discussions about the agency.
“This executive order makes it clear,” he said, “that we will never, ever tolerate substandard care for our great veterans. With the creation of this office, we are sending a strong message: Those who fail our veterans will be held, for the first time, accountable.”
Trump seems to think he created all that’s good. He is not the first to hold VA employees accountable.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Shulkin said the new VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection will help officials deal with employees who “should no longer be working [at] VA, and make sure that we can do that expeditiously.” He didn’t have a cost estimate for this new layer of bureaucracy, which he said will confront “systemic barriers that prevent us from making the right decisions.” But the secretary did say it would not be “small amounts. This is going to be a substantial commitment.”
Unfortunately, the administration’s commitment to move “expeditiously” was not accompanied by a promise to balance swiftness with fairness. Civil service protections were not even an afterthought at the executive order signing ceremony. Due process was not mentioned there by Trump, Pence or Shulkin, or in the order itself.
The order charges the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection with assisting the secretary in using “all available authorities to discipline or terminate” employees who violate the public’s trust and identifying statutory obstacles that get in the secretary’s way as he seeks to do that.
This rush to fire feds faster, first at VA, but with attempts to spread it across government, comes with a serious risk. Yes, due process rights can be slow and cumbersome. They protect, however, not just employees, but more importantly, also the public from a politicized system that favors citizens of one political party over another. Reforms must respect civil service protections. They should be acknowledged by government leaders and not be ignored as they were at the signing.
Furthermore, those protections protect whistleblowers.
While expedited firing has a certain appeal, allowing faster firing also could empower vengeful managers to more easily dismiss employees who report cases of agency waste, fraud and abuse.
The notion of protecting whistleblowers with the new VA office was met with skepticism by those who actually protect them from aggression by individual managers every day.
Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, said he appreciated Trump’s “good intentions” but that “it would be unprecedented for this office to be an effective, genuine resource for whistleblowers. As a rule, internal agency whistleblower offices always have been Trojan Horses.”
Elizabeth Hempowicz, policy counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, agreed.
She pointed to the VA’s Central Whistleblower Office, created by Congress last year to investigate whistleblower complaints and charges of retaliation against them. Because it is housed within VA, without “proper independence,” she said, “our worry is that it risks becoming an internal clearinghouse to help agency managers identify and retaliate against whistleblowers.”
Congressional Republicans, who generally speaking have advanced numerous workplace protection dilution measures, were full of praise for Trump.
“I applaud the Trump administration for taking action to hold bad actors accountable and enhance whistleblower protections throughout the VA,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
But will the administration enhance those protections or provide cover to subvert them, as whistleblower advocates fear?