THE WORKING CATHOLIC: HURRAY FOR LABOR DAY!
An essay by Bill Droel, National Center for the Laity
August 23, 2021
The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor obtained a city permit to hold a rally in Haymarket Square (today a trendy Chicago restaurant) on May the 1st. Late in the evening, someone in the rally threw dynamite. Police began firing wildly into the dispersing crowd. Soon seven policemen and four union members were dead.
Eight workers were arrested, most of them Catholic. One was a lay minister at his parish. The trials were held in August. One was released, one got 15 years in jail, two received life sentences (one of whom was murdered in prison), four were hanged in November.
A few years later, several European governments designated May 1 as Labor Day to honor the Haymarket Workers. For the same reason, Pope Pius IX declared May 1 to be the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, partly to honor the memory of the Catholic workers who were executed in Chicago.
And what was the issue that had brought the workers to the Haymarket Rally? Shorter working hours.
They wanted to limit the work week to 60 hours. This was hardly the first time that working people asked for better working conditions, and not the first time that Catholics were at the forefront of the movement. After all, the Irish, Italian, Polish and other ethnic Catholic immigrants and second generation Americans made up a large portion of the working class.
I recommend the new book Freedom from the Market by Mike Konczal (The New Press, 2021).
Read the full blog here: LINK