Theology in Action

May 1st has lent itself to history as a day for the workers’ struggle. In Chicago, the labor movement fought for and won an 8-hour work day legislation that was supposed to go into effect on May 1 1867. Before that the work day could last as long as 16 hours. When May 1 came, the bosses ignored it, the law and government wouldn’t enforce it, and when workers went on strike the police crashed down on them hard. Thus the status quo remained in place. In 1886, another 8-hour workday movement arose and called for a general strike on May 1 of that year. 750,000 workers across the country (400,000 in Chicago alone) rose up and demonstrated in the streets. It led to days of protests, rallies, and then violence reigned down on May 4 when a bomb went off in Haymarket Square in Chicago and police opened fire…

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