Today in Labor History May 3

Today in Labor History May 3, 1849, a rebellion broke out in Dresden, Germany.

Today in Labor History May 3, 1849: A popular rebellion broke out in Dresden. The militant Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin, helped lead the uprising. The authorities captured and imprisoned him in the Konigstein fortress and condemned him to death. However, they eventually released him. Composer Richard Wagner also participated. But he fled to Switzerland to avoid arrest.

1880s

May 3, 1886: At the height of the movement for the eight-hour day, police shot into a crowd of workers on strike at the McCormick Harvester Co. in Chicago. They killed four workers and injured hundreds. Anarchists called for a public rally the following day at Haymarket Square to protest the police brutality. At the rally, someone threw a bomb, which killed several police. No one was ever caught. However, the police arrested eight leading anarchists who were convicted and sentenced to death. The event became the inspiration for International Workers Day, celebrated on May 1.


Today in Labor History May 3, 1886: One thousand brewery workers, on strike for a wage increase, marched to the Falk Brewery, in Milwaukee, where they encouraged workers there to join their strike. They were members of the radical industrial union the Knights of Labor.


May 3, 1887: Two explosions at Mine #1 in Nanaimo, British Columbia, killed 150 miners. 53 of the miners were Chinese. 

1900s

Today in Labor History May 3, 1909: IWW brewery workers in Kalispell, Montana were on strike to stop the plans to divide Industrial Union into specific crafts. Additionally, they called for 6-hour days on Saturday and a 10-cent raise. Additionally, they encouraged all I.W.W. members to cease consuming Kalispell beer and saloons to stop purchasing it. 

1910s

May 3, 1911: Wisconsin created the first workers compensation program, followed almost immediately by Washington and most of the Northwestern states. 

Today in Labor History May 3, 1916: Thomas MacDonagh, Tom Clarke and Patrick Pearce were executed by firing squad. They were among the leaders of the Easter Rising, in Dublin.

May 3, 1919: Pete Seeger was born, Patterson, New York. He started his folk singing career in the 1940s, with the Almanac singers. This group included Woodie Guthrie, Cisco Houston and Bess Lomax Hawes. They sang about industrial unionism and racial inclusiveness. In the 1950s, they reconstituted as the Weavers. However, they were blacklisted by the McCarthyites. As a result, radio stations stopped playing their records and their bookings were cancelled. Seeger was a member of the Communist Party USA, but left it in 1949. He was also an early backer of Bob Dylan until he went electric and Seeger threatened to unplug him at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

1920s


Today in Labor History May 3, 1920: A young anarchist printer, Andreas Salsedo, “fell” to his death from a 14th story window of an FBI detention room in New York City. He had been arrested during the anti-commie raids launched by Attorney General Mitchell Palmer. The FBI claimed it was suicide. Activists said he was thrown.

May 3, 1926: A general strike by the Trades Union Congress of Great Britain finally ended. The general strike lasted nine days. However, coal miners continued to strike through the summer. 

The Birth of the Funkiest Man Alive

May 3. 1933: James Brown was born on this day. He was the Godfather of Soul. Mr. Dynamite. The funkiest man alive. His career began in the R&B and doo wop era of the 1950s, with the Famous Flames. In the mid- to late-60s, he was influential in the creation of soul and funk. He continued to produce some of the funkiest songs ever in the 1970s. Some of his songs were social commentaries, like “I’m Black and I’m Proud.” And he performed in civil rights benefit concerts as early as the mid-60s. However, he conservative, politically. He supported Humphrey, in ’68. And later, he supported Republican causes, including the Nixon presidency. In 1972, his concert was picketed by people with signs saying, “James Brown: Nixon’s Clown.” He also supported Reagan.

Today in Labor History May 3, 1934: The IWW strike at Draper Manufacturing began in Cleveland, Ohio. 

May Days in Republican Spain

May 3, 1937: The May Days began in Catalonia. This was a counterrevolution by the Spanish Republican government against radical workers and anarchists. Prior to this, the communists, socialists and anarchists had been allied against Franco’s nationalists. However, anarchist workers and their militias controlled most industries, which they had collectivized, while the communists controlled the central government and finances. As a result, this brought the various groups into conflict. To make matters worse, the Communist Party of Spain was taking orders from Moscow. And they wanted to separate the two struggles: revolution against the ruling class versus war against the nationalists. In contrast, the Trotskyist POUM and the anarchists saw the two struggles as one and the same. The anarchist faction included the Friends of Durruti Group and the CNT (a confederation of anarcho-syndicalist labor unions).

1960s

Today in Labor History May 3, 1968: The first battles of the May Upheaval began in the Latin Quarter of Paris. The police arrested 500 students meeting at the University of Sorbonne to protest repression at Nanterre. Revolt broke out along the route taken by police vans, with thousands fighting against the police. Throughout the month of May and part of June, workers and students occupied schools, factories and offices. By mid-May, 10 million workers were on strike. 

1970s

May 3, 1971: Police arrested 7,000 people who were trying to shut down the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam war. 

Today in Labor History May 3, 1974: The “Groups of International Revolutionary Action” (GARI ) kidnapped Spanish banker Balthasar Suarez in Paris. They did it in order to free 100 political prisoners being held by Franco, in Spain. 

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  1. Pingback: Today in Labor History May 17 - Marshall Law

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