May Day – International Worker Day

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Today’s morning discussion with a friend – the origins of May Day. Yesterday, my brother reminded me that he would not be working May 1st in honor of the sacrifices of union movements and that he might go to the Occupy May Day rally in Chicago. His plans were derailed by an unexpected death in my family and having to take on baby-sitting duties while the rest of my family attends to funeral details.

That means no sharing of photos of the Chicago demonstrations which seemed to be pretty mild. Cleveland Ohio had a different twist. Occupy Cleveland canceled rallies due to threat of violence. Cleveland has seen bloodshed on May Day during the Riots of 1919. Oaklands rally‘s was not entirely peaceful either. Reports are still being filed of the day’s labor rallies worldwide – with a call for factory conditions, sufficient salary, equity for women in the workforce and other improvements. In Laredo, though, my friend and I took a moment to remember and talk about the labor history that helped institute 8-hour workdays in times when workers would toil from 14 to even 20 hours per day and other changes.

National Public Radio tells part of the history better than I ever could. For whatever reason you celebrate May Day (the pagan holiday or other labor events on May 1st), we can’t ignore the struggles that happened in the US that shaped work environments. This is the NPR history shortly after the May Day rally and strike in 1886:

NPR’s All Things Considered interview with Historian & Author James Green

The interview is of James Green who wrote Death in the Haymarket that shares what he knows of what Chicago was like in the days around May 1st to May 4th.

May 1st has seen several labor demonstrations pro-worker rights, some violent, some not but it remains an international workers’ holiday.  A salute to those who strive for a healthy balance in workplace environment and to my brother who is a proud member of the Operating Engineers Local 150 and my father who was with the Brotherhood of the Maintenance of Way.

Today, though, marks my entry away from “worker” and into the world of small business.  Woot woot.  Let’s see what it is like to be the boss of… of… boss of myself – no employees – and I bid adios to 8 hour workdays by choice :P.

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Que Fregados is a quirky look at little things that strike us funny in Laredo and the unique Latino culture. Suggestions and comments are welcome. You can also email to quefregados@gmail.com.
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5 Responses to May Day – International Worker Day

  1. normacantu says:

    Great to hear someone in Laredo remembered’

  2. Armando X. Lopez says:

    Ditto on Dr. Cantu’s observations. Laredo has some wonderful tales of attempts to upgrade the condition of workers. In addition, the border had a “mutualista” workers structure that provided support to workers and their families outside of the employer/employee relationship. My grandfather and grandmother Gregorio and Tomasa were proud members of La Sociedad De Obreros Benito Juarez. My aunts had their quince’s at the Juarez hall on San Eduardo and I attended many functions there as a youth.

    • James Garza says:

      Armando
      it seems your family was very active in Laredo’s labor scene during the early part of the 20th century. I would love to talk to you at some point perhaps in person or certainly by email for a project I am working on regarding Laredo history.

      Best

      James Garza

  3. Beverly Sands says:

    As a wife and mother I haven’t seen an 8 hour workday since I was living under my parent’s roof. Not complaining…builds character, and pays the rent.

  4. Congratulations on being the boss of you! :)

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