Warm May Day Greetings to all of you and to all our working sisters and brothers around the globe!
On this day one year ago, the Global Fund stood in solidarity with migrant rights marches in New York and San Francisco, San Jose and Berkeley. We are proud of the Global Fund for Women's many years of support to migrant women's organizations and we take a moment this May 1st, to reiterate our commitment to the struggles for justice and a living wage that are still being advanced by the vast majority of people on our planet.
It is particularly poignant to me that May Day, like International Women's Day, is a holiday whose origins is in the United States. It commemorates the brave workers at the Haymarket in Chicago who were protesting for fair wages and decent working conditions. Of these, some eight men were condemned to die because they were framed for a bomb that was thrown at police during the protests. Three were hanged in jail, one committed suicide; three more were finally pardoned six years later. On Nov 11, 1887, close to 500,000 people lined the streets of Chicago to commemorate these workers' lives and their tragic deaths.
On June 26, 1893, the governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, issued the pardon message in which he made it clear that he granted the pardon because they were innocent of the crime for which they had been tried, and that they and the hanged men had been the victims of hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge.
The US government declared May 1st to be "Law Day", and gave the workers instead Labor Day, the first Monday of September - a holiday devoid of any historical significance.
Nevertheless, the events of 1886 and the execution of the Chicago workers, spokesmen of the movement for the eight-hour day, mobilized many generations. Emma Goldman, a young immigrant at the time, later pointed to the Haymarket affair as her political birth.
For a more detailed history, read here.
Enjoy your May Day! It's also a great pagan festival celebrated across Europe to celebrate the coming of warmer days, fertility, and spring!
Kavita N. Ramdas is the President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women.