Monday, March 2, 2009

Resolution on May Day In America

Whereas, young workers in the 1870s such as AFL president Sam Gompers and Carpenters’
secretary P.J. McGuire – both members of immigrant families in New York City – had seen a
long New York City building-trades strike win the eight-hour day, then lose it in the Crash of
1872, and

Whereas, they also knew that the 10-hour day, won in the Philadelphia general strike of 1835, had
energized labor before the Civil War, and;

Whereas, it made sense to call for a national general strike for the eight-hour day, since the local
and regional labor markets of the earlier period had finally become national by the 1880s, which
was made possible by the expansion of the railroads, and;

Whereas, wages were then paid by the day and not by the hour, such a strike would reduce
working hours and maintain a full day’s pay that would leave working people more time for their
families, for bettering themselves, and for taking an active part in politics, and;

Whereas, the roots of May Day are deep in American history, since it was the fledgling American
Federation of Labor that in 1886, seeking the spark that would ignite the unity of the struggling
American labor movement, called for a general strike for the eight-hour day to begin on May
Day, the traditional day used by the carpenters’ for setting wages and conditions, and;

Whereas, the first national action for the eight-hour day, the 1886 strike had international
significance, where all the world was watching on May Day, when the walkout brought much of
the nation’s work to a halt, and;

Whereas, the world continued to watch as the Chicago police, acting for the employers killed
strikers on May 3rd and again during the Haymarket affair on May 4, after which they rounded up
many of the city’s leftist labor leaders, who were later put on trial and condemned to death,
resulting in the world labor movement adopting May Day as its international holiday and;

Whereas, all of this has been written out of most American history books, which also omit the
fact that it was organized labor, with P.J. McGuire again in the fore, that unilaterally declared the first Labor Day, as a show of workers’ strength in New York in September 1882, which we can
also be proud of, and;

Whereas, we deny ourselves an important part of our heritage by not celebrating May Day, and
we should now be grateful to another generation of immigrant workers, who by demanding their
rights on May 1, 2006, have reminded us of this fact, so that we can all now move together in this
new, globally integrated world, to reclaim what is collectively ours in celebrating May Day, and
by doing so, join our brothers and sisters from all over the world, in a true showing of
international labor solidarity:

Therefore be it resolved, that the _________________________________________ supports and
joins with the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health and the Pennsylvania
Labor History Society in the campaign to recognize and celebrate May Day – USA, and;
Be it further resolved, that our organization will educate our members and others as to the true
American labor history and meaning of May Day after 120 years of misinformation and will
ourselves celebrate and will encourage others to celebrate May Day in whatever fashion deemed
Signed: ______________________________ Date: __________________
Name of union/org/group: ________________________________________________________
Address: ______________________________________________________________________
Email Address: _________________________________ Phone: _________________________
Make a financial contribution to continue this important program. Make checks payable to: PLHS
Send to: Pennsylvania Labor History Society (PLHS), Labor Center, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)
Keith Hall 7, 390 Pratt Drive, Indiana, PA 15705, Attention Cindy Spiel man
For more information call: 724-357-2645 or 215-301-2633, Fax: 724-357-2564, E-Mail:
Visit the MAY DAY USA website at:

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