It wasn't long ago that I knew of May Day only as a note on the calendar. And after that, a day when a few young people with covered faces went out into the streets and caused trouble. I had no idea why.
None of my many years in school, including college, taught me what May Day was really about. It wasn't until I got deep into Tumblr and began following and listening to some actual anarchists that I learned what it was. May 1st marks International Workers' Day, a day that commemorates a protest that turned truly violent, because the police decided to fire into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing four of them and injuring many others.
The protest was part of a desperate struggle to establish an eight-hour workday. Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, and eight hours for what we will. Back then, workers had to fight and protest and put their lives on the line for the most basic rights that we now take for granted. Five-day work weeks. Overtime pay after 40 hours. The minimum wage.
Now, 131 years later, we have multiple politicians in the White House who want to abolish the minimum wage again, giving companies the right to pay workers pennies even though the federal minimum wage is nothing close to a living wage. They're doing it sneakily, trying to trick people by saying it would eliminate unemployment. This is a lie. This is an attempt to get the poor to fight each other over pennies and beg them to eliminate overtime laws and let us work 16 hour days, seven days a week again. Because that is how much we would have to work to live on the paltry wages that companies would pay us if it were only legal to do so.
And if you think somehow "competition" or "the free market" would prevent this from happening, I invite you to time travel via, I dunno, a book or just fucking Wikipedia and see how well that worked out before 1886. Or maybe look at the current states of other countries without minimum wage laws.
They're playing you.
If we let them, the people in power will take away everything they can from us. Even child labor laws, which have somehow come back into debate after so many years of it being so fucked up that no one would ever consider coming out publicly in favor of such a thing. If you're not rich, if you're not one of them, and you think they're on your side, you're wrong.
We have to fight, and fight hard, to keep from going back to the 19th century. I'd be out there protesting in the streets all day if I wasn't sick. But I'm happy to say that soon I will be back to working for myself, and I'll have much more time and flexibility in my life to fight against those who would take all of our rights from us if they could.
I recommend this comic from The Nib, which is like an essay in comic form, on May Day and the importance of the minimum wage. It's beautiful, it's called If They Could Pay Us Less, They Would, and it's by Australian activist Sam Wallman.
I also want to mention that yes, Lord Dampnut declared May 1st to be "Loyalty Day," which in context of the rise of fascism in the U.S. and abroad and all the other fucked up things he's said and done in the last 100 day, is terrifying. But also, every president since 1958 has declared May 1st to be "Loyalty Day" every year, including every Democrat president, and yes, including Obama. This is yet another example of how both Republicans and Democrats are terrified of workers, unions, socialists, and anarchists, and basically anything that threatens their power.