In 1886, members of America's fledgling labor movement called a general strike for May 1 to demand an eight-hour work day. On May 4, workers at the McCormick farm equipment plant in Chicago, still out on strike, held a rally in Haymarket Square to press their demands. An unknown person threw a bomb that killed seven police officers. Eight radical union leaders were framed for the killings. All eight were convicted, seven were sentenced to death, and four were executed before a new governor commuted the sentences of the survivors. The memory of the Haymarket Martyrs was enshrined throughout the world, and May 1 became International Workers Day, everywhere except in the U.S.
Yet the movement that brought us the eight-hour work day is needed more than ever in 2011 America, when businesses routinely expect more work for less pay from fewer workers. That's why the direct action campaign by Wisconsin government workers is the best thing to happen in our country for a long, long time.
There’s a cool music video, widely seen on the Internet, that sets footage from the occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol to the song "Rebellion (Lies)" by Arcade Fire. Produced by University of Wisconsin graduate Matt Wisniewski, the video syncs the drumming and dancing in the Capitol rotunda to the drumbeat of the song. Wisniewski also successfully weaves in the bagpipes of the police and firefighters' daily solidarity parade. But to me, the high point comes when he fades the song to catch Nation columnist John Nichols bellowing, twice, "An injury to one is an injury to all."