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Happy May Day



May 01, 2009 – Comments (10)

Please enjoy your eight hour workday. Or have you surrendered it? 

Just for Dare, who wants to go back there, I would like to share this reprint from the NY Times, May 2nd 1886, concerning the May Day strikes for shorter working days, from the website. Please enjoy, especially the demands and concessions of the brewery employees:


On May 1, 1886, working men mobilized in support of the eight-hour workday in cities across the United States. In this document the New York Times reported on the diverse ways that the event unfolded across the United States, with some employers insisting that they would not pay a full day's wages for eight hours' work. One consistent theme, however, was the overwhelmingly male composition of the demonstrators...

....The temper of the crowds who watched the processions marching through the streets to-day was that of curious interest only. Here and there a bit of sullenness was apparent, and this in the eyes of some indicated probable trouble as soon as another working week begins. An amusing feature of the strike for a shorter day came out to-day in connection with the demands of the men employed in the breweries, who demanded 10 hours' work, 10 per cent. advance in wages, and free beer when they felt disposed to drink. The employers replied, granting an hour's less work per day without reduction of pay, and beer at 6, 9, 11, 12, and 4 o'clock, not more than three glasses to be drank, however, at one time.


ST. LOUIS, MO., May 1. – The furniture manufacturers of this city formed an association last night and unanimously resolved to operate their factories on the eight hours per day system after to-day, on a basis of eight hours' wages. They also resolved that they would tolerate no interference as to whom they shall employ or how their business shall be managed. An Executive Committee of seven was appointed, to which will be submitted for settlement all differences which may arise. In case of failure to settle any serious trouble, a general shut-down of the factories may at any time be ordered.

All the plumbers in the city, 200 in number, quit work this morning. They made a demand yesterday of the bosses that they adopt the eight-hour system without decreasing their wages, beginning to-day. The employers considered it too short a notice and asked for further time to consider the matter, requesting the men to remain at work until they should have arrived at a decision. This the men refused to do and stopped work.

Several hundred carpenters attended a meeting of the Carpenters' Union last night to consider the eight-hour movement. It was decided that beginning to-day they should go to work at 8 o'clock in the morning, take an hour for dinner, and quit at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, thus being in service eight hours. No strike is expected to grow out of this action, as the bosses have agreed to the proposition and the men demand pay for but eight hours' work.

Two hundred men employed on the water works in East St. Louis struck to-day for eight hours' work per day and ten hours' wages. The city refused to grant their demand and will endeavor to procure new men to fill the strikers' places.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., May 1. – May Day has brought no general strike here among the workingmen, yet there is much unrest, and it cannot be definitely determined what will be done next week. Inquiry among the employers of the Sarven Wheel Works, which yesterday shut down until Wednesday, notifying their employes that they would give eight hours' pay for eight hours' work, and that all who wished to comply with those terms could return to work on Wednesday, discloses a general feeling of hope that nothing precipitating trouble or protracted idleness will result out of the present condition of things. In some of the departments requests for an increase in wages have been made and a few employers have evinced a desire to bring about a general demand for an increase in wages to the amount of from 10 to 15 per cent. and the inauguration of the eight-hour rule. This does not seem to be generally supported. "Men can't step out on the street now and find bosses asking them to take jobs," said one of the Sarven wheel employes to-day. "We get from $1.25 to $1.50 per day as day men, spoke turners make $8 and $10 a week. These are not high wages, but they are as high as can be paid, probably, in the present condition of things." It seems likely that quite 90 per cent. of the men will return to work next Monday unless the situation changes materially in the meantime. Employes say that a majority of the men would vote for 10 hours' work per day, as the firm had announced that wages would be regulated by the number of hours of work. Among the requests preferred by the men of the company was one for a 10 per cent. advance asked by the spoke assorters. These hope to meet with a favorable reply, but make no threats in case of refusal.

All of the employes of the Central Chair Company, 80 in number, went out on a strike this morning soon after the whistle blew. Last night a committee waited on the officers and asked for Saturday half holidays without decrease of wages. The firm was unable to grant the request and the men returned to work this morning apparently satisfied, but at a given moment retired in a body from the factory. They asked 57 hours' work for a week with 60 hours' pay, a concession granted in another chair shop. The men say they were not ordered out by the Knights of Labor, but came out on their own hook. The officers say the demand cannot be granted, which is in effect an increase of 5 per cent. in pay. After paying all obligations last year the company had a surplus of 4 1/2 per cent. To grant an increase of 5 per cent. in wages would virtually lead to bankruptcy. If the price of chairs should be advanced wages could be increased, but otherwise a general advance is impossible.

DETROIT, May 1. – The threatened strike at Grand Rapids is finally averted, and to-day is given up to a holiday there. The employers accept eight hours as a day's work with a corresponding reduction in wages on all workmen above $1 per day. On this basis an advance of 5 per cent is made, with the promise of as much more in two months. No question is raised over the employers' announcement that they will run their factories in their own way, employing and discharging whom they please. These matters are expected to adjust themselves.

There has been no difficulty in this city except in the breweries. Nearly all the workmen in these establishments are out for a reduction of hours, an increase of wages, and the enforcement of strict union rules. The builders and carpenters have compromised their difficulties by agreeing for a year on a basis of nine hours' work for the present ten hours' pay, and six months' notice thereafter of any change.

MILWAUKEE, Wis., May 1. – All brewers and maltsters in the city struck to-day. Not less than 3,000 men are affected.

LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 1. – In response to a demand for the adoption of the eight-hour system the Furniture Exchange to-day decided to shut down works unless employes would accept pay for eight hours' work.

WASHINGTON, May 1. – The eight-hour rule adopted by the various building trades unions will go into effect in this city Monday morning, and as most of the master builders and contractors are determined to resist the demand for shorter hours, building operations will be practically suspended until some compromise can be effected.

PITTSBURG[sic], Penn., May 1 – The furniture manufacturers having refused to grant their employes their demands for a reduction from ten to eight hours' labor per day, a general strike was inaugurated to-day. Nearly every furniture factory in Pittsburg[sic] and Allegheny City is closed and over 600 men are idle. Both sides are firm and there is no immediate prospect of a settlement.

The stonecutters in the two cities are also out for nine hours a day, but will return to work on Monday, the employers generally having conceded to the demands.

The carpenters will strike on Monday.

PHILADELPHIA, May 1. – The cabinetmakers refuse to compromise with the manufacturers, and a general strike will probably result. They demand that on and after May 8 eight hours shall constitute a day's work. The employes of the Hae & Kilburn Manufacturing Company were notified to-day that the demands would not be granted, and accordingly 30 of the 50 cabinetmakers employed by the company laid down their tools and ceased work. The rest refused to join in the strike. The company employs about 200 men, Mr. C. Kilburn, the President of the company, said to-day that he will fill the places of the strikers next week.

TROY, N.Y., May 1. – This morning about 300 Italians, employed by the Delaware and Hudson Company in building a double track between Coon's Crossing and Ballston, struck for an increase of wages. They have been receiving $1.10 per day, demanded $1.25, and were offered $1.15, which they refused to accept. After stopping work they tied red handkerchiefs to their pickaxes and shovels and marched down the track in a body to another place where a second gang was at work and induced them to join the strikers. A large number of Italians arrived from New York by boat this morning and proceeded to Round Lake to work on the railroad.

HARTFORD, Conn., May 1. – At noon to-day two of the striking gasmen returned to work for $12 a week, including Sundays. They struck for $14 and the keeping open of a door to the retort room, so that they could enjoy a draught of air. This opening cooled the retort, and Superintendent Harbison ordered the door closed, which order not being obeyed was enforced, first by the nailing up of the door and afterward by the bricking up of the aperture. The men, who had been getting $11 a week, then struck, but the Knights of Labor did not indorse[sic] them, and they had a hard time of it. All but the two named are still out, but it is expected that they will return by Monday. A meeting of all the labor organizations is called for next Thursday night to arrange for the employment of the unemployed persons in the building trades. It is supposed that the movement will be in the nature of a co-operative enterprise to put up small homes. Carpenters have been warned not to go to Bridgeport, as there is to be a labor movement there soon.

NEW-HAVEN, Conn., May 1. – Some of the dock laborers employed by the New-Haven and Northampton Railroad Company struck to-day for an increase from $1.35 to $1.50 a day.

BOSTON, Mass., May 1. – In this city the Trades Union of Carpenters, the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, and the Plumbers' Union – 5,000 men in all – have resolved to demand eight hours on Monday and will strike if the demand is refused. The Master Builders' Association, 200 strong, unanimously adopted a manifesto yesterday afternoon bitterly condemning the action of the workmen, laying the whole blame on the labor unions, and declaring that the demands cannot be complied with without disaster to the business and working men both, and that they will close up business rather than submit to any interference.

PORTLAND, Me., May 1. – All cigarmakers belonging to the union here are out, the manufacturers having refused to grant their demand for an advance in wages.

10 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On May 01, 2009 at 11:30 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

I don't know anyone with a demanding job in a competitive industry that works 8 hours. We usually work 10 or more. I average 12 per day (whether I'm in the States or overseas).  Then again, I have a skill.  I would love to see a survey of IT professionals (you know, those crazy libertarians that want to turn back the clock and abandon all their programs and networks and systems) with their daily work load.

So I can't wait to turn back the clock to the days of 12 hour work days.  Like yesterday.  Man that was a LONG TIME AGO :)

David in Qatar

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#2) On May 02, 2009 at 12:19 AM, devoish (71.47) wrote:

We usually work 10 or more. I average 12 per day (whether I'm in the States or overseas

Got kids?

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#3) On May 02, 2009 at 12:31 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

Take a survey and find out.

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#4) On May 02, 2009 at 8:34 AM, devoish (71.47) wrote:

I don't have to. The survey I heard reported said that most employed people have 2 hours of their work day left for themselves after subtracting work, commuting and sleep. I missed if the stat was for Long Island or National or NY.

Interesting how people who actually lived in Dare's small Gov't world actually felt about it though.

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#5) On May 02, 2009 at 8:37 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

May Day turns violent in Turkey, Germany, Greece  

I guess 8 hour work days just isn't enough. Wow, 2009 is soooooooo much better than 1886!!!

ISTANBUL, May 1 (Reuters) - May Day protesters clashed with riot police in Germany, Turkey and Greece on Friday while thousands angry at the government's responses to the global financial crisis took to the streets in France.

Rising unemployment across Europe and beyond has added intensity to May Day marches as last year's market crash and banking meltdown rolls into the real economy.

There were early morning clashes in Germany and protests in Istanbul swiftly turned violent. Greek police clashed with self-styled anarchists.

Turkish riot police fired water cannon and tear gas, firing shots and pepper spray to disperse masked protesters. Young men hurled stones and Molotov cocktails, smashing bank and shop windows in side streets.

David in Qatar

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#6) On May 02, 2009 at 8:59 AM, devoish (71.47) wrote:

And yet the 1886 Times did not report violence, and conflict. Perhaps in another place and time there are now other issues and underlying tensions and goals, beyond just the goal of better working conditions.

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#7) On May 02, 2009 at 9:25 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

Quite possible.  Is it also possible that better working conditions come about, not by protest and assigning blame, but rather by the productive works of others?  For example, I enjoy excellent working conditions, despite my long hours, mainly due to the work of others: air conditiong, comfortable chairs, computer technology, etc...  I don't think I enjoy these benefits becuase people got together and said another over eight hours is too much work.  I also enjoy great working conditions because I'm valuable. I was able to select this job on a competitive bidding process since I was in demand.  So that helped.  That came about through years of work and study.  So I had a small hand in it, and many others had a hand it.  But the bottom line is that we all had to work in order to improve the quality of life.  It didn't come about by not working.

David in Qatar


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#8) On May 02, 2009 at 10:39 AM, devoish (71.47) wrote:

Its not ALL work.

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#9) On May 02, 2009 at 1:11 PM, devoish (71.47) wrote:

I also enjoy great working conditions because I'm valuable.

That is so charming and innocent, especially coming from someone with such a narrow view of history.

The GM factory workers enjoyed great working conditions and thought they were special too, having been trained on the most modern assembly line in the world.

How does that sinker taste?

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#10) On May 02, 2009 at 1:26 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

A. What's your point? For two decades people have been advising us to embrace computer technology. It's the wave of the future.  I did. They didn't.  But don't play a pity party with me.  I'm self taught.  It took years to retrain. If they chose to do otherwise, maybe they should consider it now.  Better late than never.

B. Are you taking these arguments a little too personally?  You seem to have made this into a Me vs. David and Dare contest.  I don't think anyone really cares.  I'm not here to speak to you personally.  I'm here to discuss ideas.  You have apparently decided to make this some kind of macho duel.

C. It's not ALL work.  It's called Human Action.

D.  And you don't have to be unwed with no children to retrain either.  My dad got his Master's while my mom waited in the car with me every night after work.  He worked weekends as a programmer (self taught) outside of his regular job to give us more income.  Oh yeah, and he's disabled with an amputated leg lost in one of America's needless wars.  

Human Action

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