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May Day – International Workers Day – is celebrated around the world, including in the United States, honoring the fighting spirit and struggle of all working and oppressed people. It is a time when workers show their strength, demand their rights and forge global solidarity. Its roots are in the struggle for the eight-hour day in 1886 in Chicago. Only in the United States, whose working class gave birth to May Day, have the powers that be managed to conceal that history, erase the memory of May Day, and suppress the class struggle that it represents. ILWU Local 10 shut down all Bay Area ports on May Day for the fourth consecutive year.
For the second consecutive year, the ILWU Local 10 will be withholding its labor for eight hours to commemorate May Day. This May Day, Local 10 is calling for a “National Day of Mourning” for Black and Brown unarmed victims of police killings across the country. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been invited to speak May Day. Danny Glover will appear at one of the rallies.
Terrible pictures arrive onto social media of refugees from Syria and elsewhere, washed up on the shores of Europe. One in particular is particularly ghastly – the body of young Aylan Kurdi. He was only 3. He was from the Syrian town of Kobane, now made famous as the frontline of the battle between ISIS and the Kurdish militias (largely the YPG and PKK). Aylan Kurdi’s body lay in a fetal position. Few dry eyes could turn away from that photograph.
On Monday, April 30, at least 25 prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) began a hunger strike. They are demanding that the warden meet and negotiate with them for improved conditions in Ohio’s supermax prison. The number of prisoners refusing food has fluctuated from 24 to 48 over the last week. Call the warden and state prison director.
Lucy Parsons is the Haymarket Square widow who internationalized the struggle for the eight-hour day and whose work led to the May Day rallies held around the world, except in the U.S., to celebrate International Workers Day.
May Day, the day celebrated for over a century as an emblem of workers’ power, seems to have become a symbol of its fall. Social and communal wealth has been funneled to banking and corporate interests – bailouts for billionaires – while workers have faced, at best, a plague of cutbacks; at worst, mass layoffs and firings as businesses reorganize by being even more antagonistic to labor.