May Day is as American as baseball and apple pie! The first May Day in 1886 led to more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the U.S. walking off their jobs in protest against the abuses and greed of the rich bosses. Throughout our history working class folk have had to fight for the freedom, fair treatment, and respect that the rich and the powerful would deny them.
This May Day we should be celebrating the struggles and achievements of the American worker. We should be celebrating the workers who fought for and built a working middle class that for the first time allowed working folk to buy a home, send their kids to college, and retire with dignity. A working middle class that fought for and won the respect of workers around the world.
But these days most workers don’t have much to celebrate. Large corporations, like Amazon and Comcast make obscene profits while paying little or no taxes. The rich 1 percent and the crooked politicians collect their corporate welfare in the form of tax cuts, while working folk see their taxes go up and their wages go down. Most workers can’t buy a home, most young people can’t afford college, and very few workers have any kind of reliable retirement or health care.
But we know that people are slow to throw off the shackles that oppress them and will suffer, while evils are sufferable. Our founding fathers knew that when you push people to far it is their right, it is their duty to fight back against those that would keep them down and provide new guards for their future security.
This May Day we celebrate the achievements and remember the struggles of the workers who built our nation and who fought and died for the rights and respect of all workers. We also acknowledge that we have lost our way and allowed our nation of the people, by the people, for the people to be co-opted by greedy corporation and corrupt politicians. We acknowledge that to take back our nation we have to take back our power as workers and we have to start in our local communities.
It’s time for working class folk to put aside the labels that divide them and stand together. It’s time for the working class folk to take back their prosperity and make the corporations pay their fair share. It’s time to start taxing Wall Street and investing in Main Street because when we support small businesses we keep money and jobs in our communities. It’s time to organize our work places and our communities around those kitchen table issues that unite us all: good jobs, fair wages, universal health care, affordable housing, stable retirements and respect and dignity in our work place.
The Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network and the Lane County Industrial Workers of the World will be hosting a May Day Celebration 3 pm to 7 pm, May 1, at the Park Blocks, 8th Avenue and Oak Street in Eugene. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at solidaritynetwork.org. Lonnie Douglas is a board member of the Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network.