Sign in

Time for Action June Town Halls - All details

A May Day to remember

By Maureen Mariampillai, Communications Staff

Apr 27, 2023

Text only block

For over a century, the workers who make up Alberta’s labour movement have shaped our province in just about every way. 

From women’s right to vote, to racial justice, to health and safety standards and more, so much of what we take for granted would not have happened without the blood, sweat, and determination of Alberta’s working class. 

Even now, members of the Public Service Alliance, our fellow workers, are pulling off the largest strike against a single employer in Canada’s history. They are fighting for fair pay and better working conditions in the midst of record inflation and an ongoing pandemic.

Workers of the world honour our struggles on May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, held on May 1st every year. May Day is not just a celebration, it’s a day for protest, and AUPE members across the province are prepared to fight against short-staffing on May Day.

Working short is a crisis that affects AUPE members across Alberta. Whether you work in government services, education, or health care, chances are your workplace has had a serious problem with short-staffing.

Private sector workers experience this too—just like our bosses short-staff us to meet insufficient government budgets, bosses in the private sector cut corners to make more and more profits for owners and shareholders.

Working short does not just impact workers, of course, but also the Albertans who rely on the services we all provide.

AUPE’s Occupational Health and Safety committee has organized Working Short rallies across the province. It’s time for us to embody the spirit of May Day and stand up for better working conditions for all Albertans.

Let’s make some noise: Join a May Day Working Short Rally near you!

It's time to fight for ourselves and all workers who toil in unsafe conditions, are underpaid, and are burned out physically, mentally and emotionally.

Join us during your non-work time at one of our four rallies. Bring your signs, flags, banners, your friends and co-workers to help make our voices heard!

Monday, May 1, 2023
11:30 AM – 1:00 PM

  • Edmonton: Queen Elizabeth II Building, 9820 107 St NW (north of the Legislature)
  • Red Deer: Red Deer Regional Hospital, 3942 50A Ave
  • Calgary: Foothills Medical Centre, 1403 29 St NW
  • Lethbridge: Provincial Building, 200 5 Ave S

May Day’s origins: The struggle for an eight-hour workday

It started with a peaceful protest for eight-hour workdays, but ended in bloodshed.

On May 1, 1886, labour organizers in the United States led thousands of workers in the first May Day parade. Up to 350,000 workers went on strike along with them. This action became one of the most pivotal moments in labour history. 

Two days later, labour activist August Spies was preparing to give a speech at the McCormick Harvester factory, which had recently dismissed union activists and replaced hundreds of employees thanks to Pinkerton agents. The Pinkertons are a private agency known for busting strikes and persecuting union workers.

When the speeches began, the shift ended and the scabs tried to leave, but the striking workers forced them back inside. Police arrived and descended upon the strikers, killing one person and wounding six others.

Spies organized another meeting the next day on May 4 in Haymarket Square to protest police brutality. The mayor gave organizers permission to hold the meeting and agreed that no police presence was necessary.

However, just as the meeting ended, 175 police officers showed up with Winchester repeater rifles. As the police officers intimidated the crowd and ordered them to leave, someone threw a bomb that went off near some of the police officers, killing one and injuring several others. 

The police then started firing everywhere, not caring who they shot. The police killed four workers. Countless more, including many officers, were injured by their reckless gunfire. 

Martial law was declared across the country and labour leaders were arrested. Workers were charged with murder and conspiracy to overthrow the entire U.S. political and economic system.

May Day forever

May Day began with ordinary workers organizing against stagnant wages, unsafe working conditions, and tyrannical bosses. The workers’ efforts were opposed by union-busting employers and deadly law-enforcement, but their brutal tactics did not stop the working class. We won the fight for an eight-hour workday, for improved workplace health and safety, and much more, but that does not mean our struggles ended.

Employers continue to get rich—often with the government’s help—while workers suffer because of their careless greed. That is why May Day is not just a celebration, but a call to future action.

So, when you show up at an AUPE Working Short rally near you on May 1st, use your voice to send a message to the rich and powerful:
Union power on the rise

Now's the time to organize

No more bosses, tricks & lies

Give our children better lives!

Related articles