Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Hundreds of blue-collar workers joined white-collar union members in a May Day march downtown today celebrating the International Day of the Worker.
Kelly Mayhew, an English Professor at San Diego City College, has an 8-year-old son.
"In my son's school, we're facing not having a librarian, reducing our nursing staff, not having a counselor on site, losing support staff. That impacts my child's life," Mayhew said. "Rather than taking a little bit more from those who can afford it, we're hitting the most vulnerable. When you don't properly fund public education, you foreclose the future."
Maurice Martin, the founder of Student Veterans for Peace at City College, decried budget cuts and tuition increases impacting local colleges. He said education is a critical investment in our economy.
“For every dollar we put in, we get three to four dollars back,” he said.
Justin Hewgill, who works downtown at the Employee Rights Center, said the key is taking the message to the streets.
“The only way for working class people to get ideas into the conversation is by showing up on the street and behaving unruly with a message," Hewgill said. "That’s what May Day has been for more than a century. It’s been an International Day for Worker’s Justice and worker’s celebrations and that’s what we’re doing, except in today’s context."
“That means referring immigrant rights and referencing the economic justice struggle that we call 'occupy.' We want to be part of the conversation,” Hewgill added.
The first May Day started in 1886 with estimates of 80,000 to 300,000 people, including men, women and children demonstrating for an eight-hour workday and safer working conditions.
Several initiators of the 19th Century event were later jailed, convicted and either given a life sentence or hanged in connection with the “Haymarket Massacre,” when a bomb was thrown at a policeman. The rulings were controversial and Illinois' governor later pardoned these men, some posthumously.
Individual groups like the United Mine Workers won the shorter workday in 1898. Individual companies, like Ford, trimmed shifts to eight hours and offered overtime to increase productivity.
But the majority of U.S. workers didn’t enjoy the 40 hour week until 1937 when it was proposed as the Fair Labor Standards Act.