By Beth Scroggin, chair of the Green Party of Chester County and co-chair of the Green Party of PA
PHILADELPHIA – Happy May Day! Celebrated in various ways throughout hundreds of years, May Day joyfully welcomes the change of season. My inner child looks forward to the May Day celebration at my daughter’s Waldorf School, which includes maypole dancing and a wooden boat race. My activist side, however, observes the significance and necessity of the coinciding International Workers’ Day.
Started during the Industrial Revolution in response to deplorable (and at times, deadly) working conditions and long hours, International Workers’ Day continues to serve as an opportunity for workers to organize and protect and fight for their rights. In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (now called the American Federation of Labor) held a convention and declared that eight hours shall constitute a legal work day. The Knights of Labor supported this declaration and encouraged workers to demonstrate and strike as necessary to fight for this right. May Day demonstrations have led to notable events such as the Haymarket Affair in Chicago in 1886, during which demonstrators and police officers clashed and a bomb of unidentified origin was thrown.
Then, the Pullman Strike in 1894 began as a strike at the Pullman Railroad Company but ended with a violent clash between striking workers and National Guardsmen. In response to the Pullman Strike, then-President Grover Cleveland declared Labor Day to be celebrated the first Monday in September. Some say that this move was an attempt to appease angry workers, while others believe Cleveland was trying to distract workers from International Workers’ Day and discourage potential radical activities. In 1958, Dwight Eisenhower continued the attempt to quell International Workers’ Day demonstrations by declaring May 1 to be Law Day, which would celebrate the existence of law and order. Clearly, the U.S. government has never been friendly toward or supportive of the American workers.
Now more than ever, workers must organize and fight for their rights. As a public school teacher, I have been a proud union member for the last 14 years. I am confident that I am part of an organization which works tirelessly to ensure that I am paid fairly and that my working hours and expectations are explicitly defined. Never have I been more grateful for my union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), than this past year. PSEA fought to ensure that teachers were paid during quarantine and that teachers received COVID vaccines as quickly as possible. The president of my own local union spoke with me over the phone for nearly an hour this past summer while I expressed my fears about the upcoming school year and contemplated my options. I imagined her having similar conversations with each of the other members and marveled at the ability of union leaders to take on the concerns of all workers and represent them in conversations with leadership. As one of my union representatives once said, “Sometimes people look at what union members have in terms of compensation, health care, and defined working hours and feel resentment toward us, when in fact, everyone deserves what we have.”
The Green Party has always stood for workers’ rights. We have supported strikes across the country throughout the years, as well as Fight for $15 protests. Green Party 2016 Vice Presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka has worked with the Green Party Power Project and has advocated for “reclaiming May Day as a day of resistance.” Most recently, the Green Party of Philadelphia (GPOP) attended a rally in support of Amazon workers attempting to unionize. In a speech addressing the rally attendees, GPOP City Committee member (and GPUS Treasurer) Hillary Kane pointed out that the Green Party’s own staff is unionized, and that by refusing to take corporate funding, our candidates will never be beholden to union-busting corporations. Working people need a political party who will fight for them and their rights, and whose elected candidates will serve them, and not corporate overlords. The Green Party will always choose people over profit
The Green Party of Pennsylvania (GPPA) is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. GPPA candidates promote public policy based on the Green Party’s Four Pillars: grassroots democracy, nonviolence, ecological wisdom, and social justice/equal opportunity. For further information about GPPA, please visit www.gpofpa.org. Please follow GPPA on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
For more information:
Green Party Power Project,
Green Party Stands with #BAmazon Workers by Hillary Kane,
The Cost of Structural Violence by Alan Smith, GREEN STAR, May 2019,