Building trades hold May Day rally

The Organizers Roundtable of the Columbia-Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council held a May Day rally at the Museum Block on Southwest 10th and Jefferson Street in downtown Portland in a show of strength for construction union trades.

May Day originated as a workers' holiday in the United States in 1886 as part of labor's struggle for the eight-hour workday. It is celebrated in just about every country but the U.S. The first May Day generated giant rallies and marches throughout the country. The problem was that two days later, on May 3, 1886, came the disastrous Haymarket affair - a spinoff of May Day festivities in Chicago in connection with the McCormick Harvester Works general strike that ended in police shootings and a bombing.

The incident led to the execution of five labor leaders who were posthumously pardoned because of falsified evidence, but not after setting back labor's fight for the eight-hour day and distancing many labor leaders from celebrating a day that, in their view, would "live in infamy."

May Day, particularly in socialist countries, has since been celebrated more as a reminder of the Haymarket martyrs than as a reminder of the fight for an eight-hour workday.

In Portland, over the past couple of years, May Day events have drawn more than a thousand people downtown for marches. Two years ago several people were arrested after a clash with police.

This year, the Organizers Roundtable and about 100 of their allies took to the streets in Portland to demand living wages and more union jobs in the city's construction industry. Bob Childers of Cement Masons Local 555 called for Portland to be a union town and Reverend Terry Moe, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, called for more support for the labor movement.

"We didn't want to give this day to the anarchists," said Jerry Moss, a business representative of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290. "This is our day ... workers' day, and we need more unions to be involved. Next year we'll be out here ten-fold."

May 17, 2002 issue

Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.