Army Sgt. Irving Taffler, stationed at a big American base in Italy after World War II, was ordered by his colonel to go out and hire 200 Italians to staff the facility. Taffler, a proud member of the Communist Party USA, went to the local Italian party office and put out the word. A week later the base was staffed by 200 Communists and supporters.

The only problem was that operations halted when May Day rolled around because not one of the Italians showed up for work. They were all at a rally in downtown Milan. When the colonel demanded an explanation, Taffler said, “Oh! This is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, so probably everyone’s in church.” Lucky for Taffler the colonel bought his explanation because the Church had, indeed, tried to co-opt May Day by making it a “Saints’ Day.”

Years earlier, back in the U.S. where May Day originated, there had been attempts to kill the workers’ holiday by creating a new one altogether — Labor Day in September.

The workers of the world, of course, have held onto both May Day and the struggles connected with it. What started as a strike demanding an eight-hour day in Chicago in 1886 is now the most widely celebrated holiday and day of struggle on earth.

Rightly so, because workers in today’s global economy face challenges bigger than ever. Transnational monopolies exploit the cheapest labor they can find, creating misery in the developing world, slashing jobs and wages in the developed countries and, in their insane drive for profits above even life itself, endangering the very existence of our planet.

But workers aren’t giving up — not on May Day and not on the struggles it represents. Unions are forming global organizations. Labor and its allies in the U.S., including many in Congress, are pushing to curb the U.S.-based transnationals and to protect the rights of immigrant workers victimized by corporate globalization.

This May Day, more than ever, workers will join hands with their brothers and sisters all over the world, marching, rallying and celebrating. This united action is the ingredient that, as sure as the sun comes up May 1, will bring to birth a better world.

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