Sunday, September 6, 2015

BAYVIEW LABOR MASSACRE May 5, 1886 Milwaukee

Bread and Roses 1912-2012's photo.On this Labor Day weekend in the U.S., the history matters. BAYVIEW MASSACRE - SEVEN WORKERS DEAD, INCLUDING 8 YR-OLD BOY - on May 5, 1886: The little known history of the massacre that occurred in Milwaukee, (overshadowed in history by events May 4 at Haymarket Sq in Chicago) when nearly 12,000 workers fought for the 8-hour day. The stand-off was the culmination of events that began on Saturday May 1, 1886. A historical marker, pictured here, is located at Russel and Superior on Jones Island in Bay View, commemorating the Massacre.

In Milwaukee workers formed the eight hour league with the purpose of persuading the local government to adopt the eight hour workday. Milwaukee adopted it but the law had no penalty for employers whom did not comply. These groups were extremely upset with what was happening and planned a series of demonstrations on May 1, 1886, when the law was to take effect. There were over 1,600 such demonstrations across the country. These demonstrations led to serious trouble in Chicago's Haymarket Square, where on May 3rd Chicago police shot four workers to death and on May 4th someone unknown hurled a bomb into the police ranks killing several officers and wounding many more. There was further trouble at Rolling Mills in Milwaukee as a somewhat peaceful demonstration turned ugly.

By May 3 strikers had shut down every factory in Milwaukee except one, The North Chicago Railroad Rolling Mills Steel Foundry. The chant then went out: "eight hours, everyone must strike, onto the mills!" By this time the marchers numbered about 1,500. Strikers in the city numbered about 12,000. Police followed the crowd into the Bay View Neighborhood late in the afternoon and called Governor Rusk to inform him that they did not have adequate forces if violence should occur. On May 5, around nine in the morning strikers gathered, chanting "eight hours," a reporter who slept with them reported that it was odd that a group with no real leadership, remained united. The crowd approached the mill and faced the militia who fired at them. Newspapers reported that six were dead and at least eight more were expected to die within 24 hours. The dead included a 13 year-old boy tagging along with the crowd and a retired worker struck down by a stray bullet; he was getting water and was not part of the strike!

No comments:

Post a Comment