I went yesterday, May 1, to the May Day USA Rally and Celebration in Elmwood Park, 71st Street and Buist Avenue in South West Philadelphia. This was sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH), the May Day USA Education Committee, and the Pennsylvania Labor History Society (of which I’m a life member).
This is part of a movement to tell the true story of May Day, how it emerged from the Labor struggles in this country-in this case, the movement for the eight-hour work day in the Nineteenth Century and the Haymarket incident of May 1886, where labor activists were accused of taking part in the murder of policemen and were unjustly hanged, after a campaign of fear about “anarchists.”
We assembled around the Labor Monument, a series of brass stands designed like old union buttons, that were set up to commemorate the milestones of Labor History in the United States: Eugene V. Debs and his organizing railroad workers, the campaign against child labor, the founding of the IWW, the organizing of farm workers under Cesar Chavez, to name a few. We honored the work of Cathy Brady, longtime Labor and community activist who passed away last year, and who worked hard to have the Labor Monument installed in the park.
Food was provided by the Veterans For Peace’s “Precision Grill Team.” Entertainment was provided by Xtreme Creations and hip-hop artist Joie Kathos. Poetry was provided by Irving Courrtley Jones and the The Bread Is Rising poetry collective. Kids’ activities were provided by the Philadelphia Child Care Collective.
I encourage you all to read the real story of May Day-beyond the Cold War scares of the “Communist Menace”-and of US Labor History in general.