The Haymarket Affair Revisited

While we suffer the fools in various Midwest states and elsewhere, where governors and their legislatures are flat out trying to dismantle unions, it is good on this May Day to remember back 131 years ago to the Haymarket Affair in Chicago. The year was 1886 and the scene started at the McCormick Harvester Plant.

The long and short was a strike at the plant and the police were called in by management and 4 "strikers" were shot dead.  The next day, at the Haymarket Square in Chicago, there was a demonstration of outrage over the ability of an industrialist being able to call in the police department to disperse workers who were striking or protesting and that they would shoot 4 of them dead.  The police showed up again at the Haymarket and a bomb was tossed and a policeman along with a dozen or so others died.  More died in the chaos that followed.

A trial took place over the policeman's death and for that there was no evidence as to who threw what. A dozen or so folks were, however, tried on charges of "anarchy" and convicted and 4 were hung for it.  This was obviously the south pole of a number of issues not the least of which was a company, when confronted by a strike, could call out the police to rid itself of the issue, the police could shoot strikers, a demonstration ensued in which more deaths occurred and absent any evidence whatsoever that the arrested men had anything to do with the deaths, the charges were changed to anarchy and 4 were hanged.

The result was a shot heard around the world and workers and unions everywhere on earth took up the cause. As it happened  on May 1 and thereafter, the normal May Day - or Flora Day or Walpurgis Night Day - the day of flowers and planting and the emergence of things that start afresh - shouldn't be lost on anyone.  Basic rights that have to do with how people spend - other than sleeping - the majority of their organized time deserves consideration and perhaps some reverence pagan or otherwise.  It needs to be renewed every so often and not plowed back into the ground as now seems to be the case.

I'm taken aback by the union bashing in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, etc., as it seems to me to be grossly unfair.  Not to the extreme levels of calling in the government to shoot strikers and trying unionists for anarchy and hanging them, nor remembering the Flat Iron fire when management locked women in a sewing sweat shop and washed their hands of responsibility when fire broke out and they were burned alive because they couldn't get out of the only door.  It is deeper than these deaths.  It is the realization that without the people involved in making things there would be no company.

So many jobs have been sent overseas due to fun and games tax rules and the overall disintegration of the management-worker bond.  Some of this is economics and I think a lot of this is just plain sweatshop mentality.  Our clothing sellers don't seem to mind that a lot of the stuff they sell is made by kids somewhere working 60 hour weeks for nothing. 

Think of that the next time you lace up your Nike designer shoes.