What’s May Day?
May Day is a day for workers to unite in solidarity across the globe. Although it started in the United States, it isn’t widely recognized here. The holiday emerged from the radical struggles of the nineteenth century and commemorates workers and activists who fought and died for the workplace protections that we enjoy today.
In 1889, the International Socialist Conference declared that May 1 would be an international holiday for labor in commemoration of the Haymarket affair of 1886. What is the Haymarket Affair, you ask? It’s a story of heroism in the face of power. Over 200,000 workers banded together across multiple industries to leave their workplaces and demand an eight hour workday. The next May Day–and every May Day since–workers across the world have gathered to protest a world in which production is motivated by profit, not human value.
But in the United States, powerful interests have tried to erase May Day. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland moved it to the first Monday in September to obscure its radical history. Dwight Eisenhower later proclaimed May 1, 1958 as “Law and Order Day,” signaling the beginning of an attack on unions and labor rights that continues up to the current day.
But times are changing. Mobilization is on the rise. In the last few months alone, DSA SF has helped secure union contracts for workers at Anchor Brewing and Ford GoBike. Meanwhile, polls show that the majority of Americans view organized labor favorably, and the legacy of May Day teaches us that solidarity among workers is an incredibly powerful force.
In DSA-SF, we see the month of May as an opportunity to double down on the wins we’ve achieved, strategize for those yet to come, and honor the workers and organizers who made all of this possible. We’ve got events scheduled all month long!
On May 1st, International Worker’s Day, join DSA-SF and EBDSA comrades– along with workers from Anchor Brewing and ILWU–as we fight the privatization of the waterfront and a billionaire’s land grab to build an Oakland As ballpark at the expense of unionized dockworkers and working class West Oakland tenants.
On May 4th, come picnic with Bay Area DSA chapters in Marx Meadow in Golden Gate Park.
On May 12th, meet us at a Dogpatch WineWorks in the heart of San Francisco’s historic warehouse district as we engage in a wide-ranging conversation with labor activist David Ranney, who gave up a tenure-track position in academia to engage in a 20-year struggle as a labor and community activist in Chicago, working in factories to make ends meet. His new book, “Living and Dying on the Factory Floor,” is the culmination of 25 years reflecting on his life in the labor movement, and a testament to a lifetime of struggle against capital in solidarity with working people.
On May 16th, cheer with us at the Tenderloin Museum as we hear from workers and organizers from DSA-SF, Anchor Brewing, the Transport Workers Union, and the Tech Worker’s Coalition. Learn about the risky, underground world of organizing a winning union drive.
On May 23rd, join us again at the Tenderloin Museum as we take stock of one of the most important moments in our nation’s history — the 1934 San Francisco General Strike led by Anchor Brewing’s own Internal Longshoremen and Warehousing Union.
Keep on fighting, comrades, and Happy May Day!