‘General Survey of the Battlefield,’ Preparations for the First May Day from The Workmen’s Advocate (S.L.P.). Vol. 6 No. 18. May 3, 1890.

Local reports on labor’s plans for the first May Day’s eight-hour mobilizations in 1890 from Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Connecticut. The immense honor of the only Southern city to host an event that year belongs to Birmingham, Alabama.

‘General Survey of the Battlefield,’ Preparations for the First May Day from The Workmen’s Advocate (S.L.P.). Vol. 6 No. 18. May 3, 1890.

The Struggle! Unexpected Magnitude of the Eight Hour Movement – Contagious Enthusiasm – Large Accessions to the Ranks of Organized Labor – Progress along the Skirmish Line.


There will be a large eight-hour demonstration on May 1 in Cincinnati. The interest taken in the affair by the labor and radical organizations points to a very large attendance. Unfortunately the projectors of the demonstration have thought it advisable to include in the programme a protest against prohibition. This was done to secure the co-operation of the anti-prohibition societies, who have a large following in the city. A great number of eight hour meetings have been held in almost every city in the State and as a result the unions have largely increased their membership since January 1. THE CARPENTERS will demand eight hours in Bridgeport and nine hours in Cleveland. THE MINERS, who are to be the next to tight for eight hours after the carpenters have won their battle, are perfecting their organization. For Ohio this was done at a convention held at Columbus. All the miners are amalgamated in one State organization, to be known as District No. of the United Mine Workers of America. In Youngstown there will be a parade and demonstration of THE BUILDING TRADES on May 1, if the contractors persist in refusing their demands. THE GERMAN-AMERICAN TYPOGRAPHICAL UNION has succeeded in establishing eight hours and higher wages in every German printing office in Cleveland.


THE BAKERS OF HARTFORD have reduced their hours of labor to ten after a short strike. They also obtained a new scale of wages and abolition of Sunday work. THE PRINTERS OF KEW BRITAIN secured a reduction of the hours of labor from ten to nine, the wages to be the same as for the ten-hour day. Although the movement in this State is not demonstrative there is a strong undercurrent among the working people towards organization, which is especially true of New Haven. There will be no demonstration May 1.


There is a lively eight-hour movement in Boston. THE CARPENTERS have decided to go on strike on May 1, unless the eight hour-day is granted them. They have made thorough preparations for the great battle. There are about 6,500 union carpenters in the State of Massachusetts, distributed in 37 local unions, all of which have agreed to either actively join in the movement or aid the struggle of their comrades who shall go on strike. In Lancaster THE CARPENTERS have made a demand for a uniform rate of wages of $3.00 per day and won it. In New Bedford THE CARPENTERS will demand nine hours at ten hours’ wages on June 2. In Lynn 500 union carpenters struck for $2.75 per day and nine hours. They were successful. The MARBLE CUTTERS of Boston, to the number 2.200, have been granted nine hours per day, without a reduction in wages. These men were employed in twelve of the marble factories of Boston; there remain hut three firms who have not yet complied with the of the Marble Cutters’ Union. The GRANITE CUTTERS of Boston will strike for less hours and better wages on May 1. A strike will also be ordered by the granite cutters of Quincy, who demand nine hours and 31 cents per hour. THE 450 WORKMEN employed in the soda water fountain factory of James W. Tufts in Boston have been notified that from June 1 their work-day will be reduced from 10 to 9 hours without any reduction in and that extra time will be paid for pro rata. It is reported that the BAKERS OF BOSTON belonging to Unions 4 and 54 will demand a reduction of the hours to ten. There is great activity among the bakers and their unions are gaining in strength rapidly. What actions they will take has not yet been definitely decided. The labor organizations of Boston rapid progress in other trades. Well attended meetings are held in the piano and furniture trades, The furniture makers’ meeting resulted in the organization of a local union of the Int. Furniture Workers’ Union. 800 PORK PACKERS employed in J. J. Squire & Co’s big pork packing establishment in East Cambridge are out on strike. They demand the reinstatement of the men recently discharged in the killing department, The strikers also demand an advance of wages of $1,00 per week and they charge that the 90 men were discharged for the purpose of intimidating the others to desist from their demand for better pay.


The labor organizations of this State are not sufficiently organized to make an active effort for the reduction of the hours of labor. There will, however, be an eight-hour demonstration in the city of Birmingham on May 1, which will the held under the auspices of the Trades’ Council of that city.


The carpenters of Indianapolis won their light for eight hours ten days before May 1. They went on strike April 15 to the number of 1,000 men and their demands were eight hours per day and 35 cents per hour. After striking five days they had brought down 47 of the 78 contractors and on April 22 the eight hour day was conceded by every boss carpenter in the city, The demand for wages was compromised, the men accepting 30 cent, which is an advance of 5 to 10 cents as against the former scale. The union largely increased in membership. THE PAINTERS of Indianapolis have also gone on strike for a reduction of the hours of work and the redress of other grievances. THE PLASTERERS of Indianapolis won eight hours and 40 cent. THE CARPENTERS of New Albany will demand eight hours on May 1 and go on strike, if their demand is refused.


The workingmen of St. Louis will hold a grand eight hour parade and demonstration on May 1. On March 25, the Trade and Labor Union issued a call to all labor organizations to make preparations for a grand turnout on this occasion and a large number of unions have decided to participate. The following are among the organizations who will march in a body: Brotherhood of Painters’ and Decorators’ Union 115 and 137; Cigar-makers’ Int. Union No. 44, Cigar Packers’ Union No. 281, Carpenters’ Brotherhood Unions 4. 5, 12 and 257. The Collar Makers’ Union, the Furniture and Hard Wood Polishers’ Union No. 2, Iron Molders Union No. 59, Musicians’ Union, Pattern Makers, Slate Roofers, Tailors, Beer-drivers, Brewers, Coopers’ Union No. 3, Bakers’ Union No. 15. The German Trade and Labor Federation is doing everything to push the matter and an imposing demonstration may be expected. A number of small unions not having sufficient numbers to march in a body will be joined in a miscellaneous division. The eight-hour agitation has already had the effect of inducing the City Council of Kansas City to pass an ordinance making eight hours a day’s work on all city contracts and for all city employees.


In Portsmouth a general building trades strike has broken out on account of the refusal of the employers to grant a reduction of the hours of from ten to nine. On April 15 the employing carpenters, masons, bricklayers, painters and plumbers held a meeting and decided to insist on ten hours. The bosses afterwards offered an increase of wages, if the men would abandon their demand for nine hours and compromise. In Nashua 800 WEAVERS, SPINNERS and help employed in the Jackson Company’s mills are on strike for an increase of wages. The mills are closed and the 800 operatives are strolling about the streets.


In this State the eight-hour movement has called into existence a State Eight-Hour League to conduct the eight-hour agitation throughout the State. At the last meeting of the league, held in Minneapolis on April 13, committees were appointed to arrange eight-hour meetings on May 1 in all the principal industrial centres of the State. The League is already a strong body, representing every large city in the State. The meeting of the League above mentioned was attended by 400 delegates. Although there is great activity in the labor movement, no strikes are announced for May 1. THE PLASTERERS in Minneapolis have gained the eight hours from that date. The carpenters of the same city intend making a demand for eight hours as soon as they have perfected their organization, which is making steady progress. The carpenters of St. Paul have secured a reduction of the hours to 9 in one large shop until May 6, when a further reduction to eight hours is to take Place. In Duluth the painters have secured a reduction of the hours of labor in several shops.

Banner from the 1835 Philadelphia general strike for the ten-hour workday with the slogan 6 to 6 as worker points to the clock to stop working. J.A. Van Schoick, Journeymen House Carpenters’ Association of Philadelphia.


The two thousand carpenters of Milwaukee have made their demand for eight hours and as the bosses’ association declined to accede to the demand, a general strike of the carpenters has been ordered for May 1.


The United Labor League of Philadelphia has treated the eight hour question with even greater indifference than the New York C. L U. has done. Nothing being done by the central body, the United German Trades resolved to arrange some suitable demonstration. Under their auspices an eight-hour mass meeting was held on Monday of last week which was preceded by a street parade. All the advanced organizations took part in the parade and meeting. In Pittsburgh a demand for eight hours will be made by the German compositors. The carpenters will not ask eight hours but will actively support their comrades elsewhere. There is, however, considerable excitement in Pittsburgh over the movement among the railroad employees for a redress of grievances and certain positive demands, as the reduction of the hours of labor. Negotiations have been pending between the railroad officials and the Federation of Railroad Employees, but no final settlement, although the railroads made some concessions on minor points has been reached yet. The Federation embraces all classes of railroad employees and has a membership of 14,000. Important movements are taking place among the miners. They are perfecting their organizations in the various mining districts of the State. Thousands flock to the unions and the organization of miners is probably stronger to-day than it has been ever before. At a miners’ conference, held at Pottsville, where the entire anthracite coal region was represented, the Workingmen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, 2,300 miners of the Holzdale district and 2,500 miners of Philippsburgh joined the new association within a few days after it was formed. The Pottsvilie conference adopted resolutions expressing thorough accord with the eight hour movement,

The Workmen’s Advocate replaced the Bulletin of the Social Labor Movement and the English-language paper of the Socialist Labor Party originally published by the New Haven Trades Council, it became the official organ of SLP in November 1886 until absorbed into The People in 1891. The Bulletin of the Social Labor Movement, published in Detroit and New York City between 1879 and 1883, was one of several early attempts of the Socialist Labor Party to establish a regular English-language press by the largely German-speaking organization. Founded in the tumultuous year of 1877, the SLP emerged from the Workingmen’s Party of the United States, itself a product of a merger between trade union oriented Marxists and electorally oriented Lassalleans. Philip Van Patten, an English-speaking, US-born member was chosen the Corresponding Secretary as way to appeal outside of the world of German Socialism. The early 1880s saw a new wave of political German refugees, this time from Bismark’s Anti-Socialist Laws. The 1880s also saw the anarchist split from the SLP of Albert Parsons and those that would form the Revolutionary Socialist Labor Party, and be martyred in the Haymarket Affair. It was in this period of decline, with only around 2000 members as a high estimate, that the party’s English-language organ, Bulletin of the Social Labor Movement, appeared monthly from Detroit. After it collapsed in 1883, it was not until 1886 that the SLP had another English press, the Workingmen’s Advocate. It wasn’t until the establishment of The People in 1891 that the SLP, nearly 15 years after its founding, would have a stable, regular English-language paper.

PDF of full issue: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90065027/1890-05-03/ed-1/seq-1/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s