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May Day Commemorates Strife, Struggle, and Sacrifice of Working Men and Women

Washington, DC (May 1, 2018) – LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan made the following statement on May Day:

On May 1, working men and women around the globe will commemorate the strife, struggle and sacrifice of workers who came before us and honor their courage as inspiration to carry on the battle for social and economic justice.

It was 132 years ago that 16-hour workdays in dangerous and life-threatening conditions for poverty pay was common in our nation. At that time a movement was building behind a modest demand – that the workday be limited to eight hours. On May 1, 1886, an estimated 300,000 workers across the U.S. walked off their jobs, 40,000 of whom were in Chicago. While strikes continued peacefully for days, eventually drawing 100,000 to the streets of the Windy City, violence erupted at Haymarket Square leaving seven dead and many more injured.

May Day remains a stark reminder of how peace can be fractured when the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows so wide that that the ability to prosper, to care for one’s family and to maintain basic dignity is lost. And it is a reminder of how brave, united and determined people gave birth to the modern Labor Movement and its victories, such as the eight-hour day.

May Day is a world-wide holiday that we too seldom claim as our own. Its message now inspires the modern struggle for workers’ rights, civil rights, union rights, human rights and justice in countries around the world.

Today more than ever, it is a message we must make sure is heard loud and clear. Once again, in our nations the gap between the very wealthy and everyone else is at an historic high. Here in the US and Canada, and across the globe, good family-supporting jobs are being replaced by the thousands with dead-end, poverty-pay jobs that for many workers has resurrected the 16-hour workday.

We are also seeing an increase in immigrant-bashing around the world reach dangerous levels. The ugly greed that the first May Day strikers stared down is the same greed that led bold immigrant laborers to found our union only a few decades after Haymarket.

On this holiday, we must never forget that there is no movement too radical and there is no union too militant when the lives and dignity of working people are under attack. We must make sure May Day is never remembered as just a day, but rather as the beginning of the proud story of our global Labor Movement.

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The half-million members of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – are on the forefront of the construction industry, a powerhouse of workers who are proud to build America.