CHICAGO — In the city of May Day’s birth, labor unions pledged to support the May 1 immigrant rights rally here. WithHaymarket Square as a backdrop, the president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, Dennis Gannon, told reporters, “Immigrants’ rights are workers’ rights.”

“When you talk about the Haymarket martyrs, you talk about the struggle of the immigrant workers,” Gannon said, referring to the eight labor leaders, five of whom were German immigrants, framed for the 1886 bombing at Haymarket Square.

Tom Balanoff, president of Service Employee Union Local 1, and Carl Rosen, president of District 11 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers — unions not affiliated with the AFL-CIO — also spoke, pledging support for the May 1 rally. Among the rally’s demands, speakers said, are a path to citizenship, family reunification and workers’ rights.

“We don’t want to go from being poor, undocumented workers to being poor, documented workers,” said Jorge Mujica, an organizer of the massive immigrant rights rally held here March 10. “It’s not going to give us health care; it’s not going to give us the overtime employers are not paying us.”

The Chicago Federation of Labor, along with the Illinois Labor History Society, was instrumental in getting a statue placed last year at Des Plaines and Randolph streets, the site of Haymarket Square. Labor pledged to “reclaim” the holiday. (See “Chicago labor reclaims May Day” at www.pww.org.)

It was at Haymarket Square where workers gathered 120 years ago to continue the push for an 8-hour workday and to protest the police killing of picketing workers at McCormick Reaper Plant. On May 1, 1886, 340,000 workers in 12,000 factories across the U.S. struck for an 8-hour day. Chicago had the nation’s largest demonstration, with some 80,000 people marching up Michigan Avenue. Subsequent mass protests took place on May 2 and May 3 — where police attacked and killed the McCormick workers.

The May 4 rally at Haymarket was winding up when some 170 armed police surrounded the 200 people still at the rally. An unknown assailant threw a bomb. In the ensuing chaos, several workers and policemen were killed. And a vicious anti-labor repression followed.

In 1889, the International Labor Congress adopted May Day as International Labor Day in memory of the Haymarket martyrs, it is celebrated worldwide to this day.

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