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International Workers Day - The US Connection





This weekend Ireland and other nations celebrate International Workers Day - May Day. It is a public holiday and coincides with the old Celtic Spring festival Lá Bealtaine. It was picked as the worker's holiday to marks the anniversary of the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886. Seven police officers and 4 workers were killed over 100 were injured. The workers had been part of US-wide protests to secure an eight-hour working day.

Following the massacre, a group of labor organizers, that became known as the Chicago Eight were convicted of murder. Many were not even present at the May 4 event, and their alleged involvement was never proved. Four defendants were hanged on November 11, 1887, and another defendant committed suicide the night before his execution.

In 1893 Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld was petitioned to grant clemency to the surviving three men. Altgeld concluded that the defendants had not been given a fair trial because the judge was biased, the jury packed in the prosecution’s favor, and much of the evidence fabricated. He pardoned the remaining His decision to issue the pardons was widely condemned by industrialists and the conservative press but was applauded by labor reformers.

This Mayday we remember generations of Irish American Trade Union Leaders, Mother Jones, James Connolly (in photo Mayday Rally, New York), and Mike Quill to name but a few. As well as the fearless leaders who continue to stand up for the rights of all workers.

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