This year the Solidarity Forever calendar looks back one-hundred years, to the Bisbee, Arizona deportation when some two-thousand miners and their supporters were forced into manure-coated cattle cars and hauled by rail into the desert, where federal troops prevented them from returning to their homes. Those workers had organized into the Industrial Workers of the World after their previous union had proven too friendly with the employers. Among their demands was to equalize wages for the predominantly Mexican-American workers who handled the ore above ground for half the pay. That same year, federal officials raided union offices across the country, unleashing a reign of terror on dissidents and radicals and workers who saw no reason why they should be asked to work in dangerous conditions for low pay while their bosses reaped huge profits from World War I.
It was a time of fierce repression, but also a time when workers were organizing across the racial and ethnic lines that had historically divided them. They were seeking better pay and working conditions, but also shorter hours and a new society in which workers could live in dignity and freedom.
And those struggles have continued unabated over the century that followed. This year’s calendar looks to Venetian gondoliers, who struck for safer work but also to save their city’s history; to teachers in Oaxaca shot down for defending their union and their schools; to Detroit teachers who struck for decent schools; to a time when Arab and Jewish workers could march together on May Day, hoping for a society that would respect the rights of all.
We remember the vicious repression that has been visited against our fellow workers, but also the solidarity of millions that spared Tom Mooney’s and Warren Billings’ life, and the recognition that an injury to one is an injury to all that led Canadian postal workers to strike to end the consignment of women postal workers to second-class status at half pay.
We invite you to remember these struggles, and to reflect on the possibilities for reviving a labor movement committed to solidarity, and to a vision of justice and workplace democracy.
The Solidarity Forever Labor History Calendar has been published by the Hungarian Literature Fund since 1985 to inspire greater labor solidarity and preserve the memory of workers’ struggles around the world.