Many television news segments, newspaper articles and blog posts have, of late, asked what’s next for the Occupy movement. With spring in the air, apparently much of the Occupy movement’s strategizing has gone into claiming Labor Day as a way to express contemporary discontent and possibly mobilize new participants particularly in smaller cities. According to Alan Farnham of ABC News, “It’s shaping up to be a busy spring for Occupy.” Because of its cultural significance, or that it presents a perennial opportunity to raise awareness and promote Occupy goals, May Day might get a makeover in becoming the day for the 99%.
As Farnham writes, “The May Day General Strike calls for workers and students around the country not to show up for work or school. The idea, say organizers, will be to show the “1 percent” what life without the “99 percent” would look like. In New York City, Occupy Wall Street has discussed a morning disruption of commerce, followed by a mid-day demonstration in support of immigrant rights, capped off by an evening march.”
A similar strategy was used by the immigration rights movement in 2006 when they organized “a day without immigrants.” Indeed, the Facebook campaign about the May Day strike not only connects labor to the 99% but immigrants as well. According to the Facebook page, “Labor and workers are under attack by the 1%. Occupy stands with Immigrants and with Labor both organized and not. Unions and union rights are what made our working class strong. Every benefit we have as working people has come from the struggles of organized labor and immigrants fighting for their rights. Now they are trying to destroy our bargaining rights, they want their greedy hands on our pensions. They don’t have enough already? ENOUGH.”
May Day has traditionally been a holiday to mark international labor movements. Although it has its origins in the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, apparently, President Cleveland had the holiday moved to September fearing that May Day in the US would commemorate rioting. Most nations that do celebrate Labor Day celebrate it on May 1st. Most North Americans, probably don’t think much about Labor Day. I tried Googling labor day and even though it is months away, most of the first two pages were links to calendars, but the next few were about Labor Day sales and travel deals!
In a post I wrote back in January, I noted that a major success of the OWS movement was to declare a “war on inequality.” But the movement has also brought labor back onto the political and public scene. In many ways, Occupy will benefit from Labor Day, and Labor Day might benefit from its possible reinvention by the movement. After all, when was the last time we really celebrated Labor Day?