May Day turns 125 years old this year. Elizabeth Schulte tells the story of the fight for the eight-hour day–and of the Haymarket Martyrs who gave their lives for it.
Socialist Worker, April 30, 2011
ON MAY 1, 1886–125 years ago this month–hundreds of thousands of workers were taking the streets of cities around the U.S. to demand an eight-hour day.
The epicenter of this great labor struggle was Chicago, where the eight-hour movement inspired defiant protests and strikes–and inspired fear and repression from bosses and their loyal servants in law enforcement.
Two days after the massive May 1 actions, Chicago police fired on a protest of workers at a South Side factory, killing four people. A protest demonstration was called the next day for Haymarket, just west of downtown. The rally was peaceful, but as it was nearing a close, police waded into the crowd. At this point, a bomb was thrown into the ranks of police–and this became the excuse for a deadly rampage by the authorities.
Eight working-class radicals were arrested and charged with conspiring to commit the bombing–even though most weren’t even at Haymarket when the explosion occurred.