“May Day” or International Workers’ Day commands a worldwide celebration of massive marches and events but it is hardly noticed in its country of origin, the United States. I am proud to be a member and a staff member of the Green Party of United States because the Green Party celebrates workers on this special day.
In October 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions met in Chicago for its annual convention. The delegates approved a resolution stating “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886”. The resolution continued that if the federal government did not enact legislation enforcing the 8-hour day by May 1, 1888, the Federation would call a general strike.
Without the federal government failing to enact the 8-hour day, on May 1, 1888 over 300,000 workers at 13,000 factories downed tools as they celebrated the first May Day in history. In Chicago alone, over 40,000 workers walked out.
The strength of organizing continued growing, from the Seattle General Strike of 1919, to the Minneapolis strikes of 1934 that led to the growth of the Teamsters (documented by Farrell Dobbs) and the sit down strikes that were led by the newly established United Auto Workers Union in Flint and later Detroit. There isn’t room here to list the strikes by miners throughout Appalachia.
The declaration of the strike of May 1, 1888 by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions remains one of the most significant events of labor history in the United States.
This Wednesday, as we celebrate May Day for the 131st time, the power of working men and women continues to decline. There are a multitude of reasons for the decline, but key is the abandonment of the working class by the Democratic Party.
The need for a party of labor has never been greater. It’s my dream that as the Green Party continues to grow, it can become the political voice of the working class.
When the staff of the Green Party decided to unionize in 2017, we “decided to create a revolutionary, self-declared union, affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World.” The announcement of our decision was met with a standing ovation at the 2017 Annual National Meeting held in Newark, New Jersey.
The Green Party thus became the first national political party in the United States to unionize. The acclaim in Newark and the acceptance of our decision by the Steering Committee shows the commitment of the Green Party to becoming the voice of the working man and woman in our country.
Green Party of the United States Shop Steward
IWW Industrial Union #560