CHICAGO – Young people from all over the rust belt converged on the spot of the Haymarket Massacre when the “Red School Bus” tour stopped here for the Midwest School for Young Activists.
At the Haymarket memorial, Tim Yeager, secretary treasurer of UAW Local 2320 and member of the Illinois Labor History Society, gave a presentation about its significance and the conditions that led to the massacre itself.
After listening to Yeager talk about the struggle for the 40-hour work week when the average was at 78 hours, Tyler a young activist from Illinois, said, “I work that many hours now.”
Recent attempts by Republican governors to dismantle and intimidate unions were more than relevant to the young Midwesterners.
In a discussion on capitalism and the class struggle back at the Unity Center, where the school took place, the young activists discussed the many ways that capitalism had affected them personally.
Classes at the school were on the “political time of day,” capitalism, the labor movement, racism and immigration and LGBT rights. Discussion leaders were veteran activists and labor leaders from the Communist Party.
During the class, taught by Communist Party USA Secretary Treasurer Roberta Wood, one spoke of a life with no money to get an education; another of not having benefits at their job; still another of the stress of having to move away from family in search of gainful employment
Derek, 19, who came with the Kentucky delegation, spoke to the conditions in his state and the backwardness of Rand Paul. Gavin, a truck driver from Ohio, sought advice on how to address racism and xenophobia in his hometown and among friends and family.
The school also featured sessions on the labor movement, taught by People’s World Labor Editor John Wojcik, and the struggle for equality and immigration, led by Pepe Lozano. Students even learned the labor theory of value by discussing the life of a Big Mac.
The students were also lucky enough to have members of the Immigrant Youth Justice League come and talk about the difficult situation facing young undocumented workers and what things they and other young people can do to help. One suggestion was organizing around the DREAM Act.
A representative from the AFL-CIO’s youth group participated in a panel discussion and argued for the importance of unions and young workers’ rights on the job.
The pilgrimage to the Haymarket memorial in Forest Home Cemetery came on the last day of the Chicago school. There they paid tribute to some of the giants of American labor movement, like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, William Z. Foster, Henry Winston and Emma Goldman.
Steven, a 25-year old from Ohio described his experience at the school, saying, “This weekend has ended an old chapter, and began a completely new one in my life.”
The next stop on the Red Bus tour is Orlando, Fla., June 10th-12th. For more info on that and other upcoming bus stops, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.