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Milwaukee labor commemorates 138th anniversary of the Bay View Massacre

By staff

Milwaukee labor marks anniversary of the Bay View massacre.  | Fight Back! News/staff

Milwaukee, WI – Trade unionists, community members, and elected officials gathered for a commemoration of the “Bay View Massacre” on Sunday, May 5, in Milwaukee. A sunny afternoon of activities paid homage to the seven martyrs who were shot and killed by the Wisconsin State Militia during the 1886 nationwide general strike for the eight-hour day. The historic event followed closely on the heels of the actions in Chicago which would eventually lead to the creation of May Day. The Wisconsin Labor History Society has organized the commemoration of the Bay View Massacre every year since 1986, and it has become an important labor tradition.

This year, the Young Workers Committee of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council organized a march to the commemoration, starting from the site where the massacre took place on Bay Street and Lincoln Avenue in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee. The theme of the march was “Carry the Struggle Forward.” About 60 unionists representing several local unions gathered to place seven white crosses at the site of the massacre, and then picked up the banners and marched to the commemoration. Marchers chanted “What do we want? The eight hour day!” and “The four day week!”

Over 200 people attended the program which featured live music, a re-enactment of the events that led to the massacre, and speeches. Speakers included labor historian Joe Walzer and unionists leading current campaigns in their workplaces and in the Milwaukee community.

Aurelia Ceja, co-chair of the Coalition to March on the RNC, got the crowd fired up to protest when the Republican National Convention comes to Milwaukee on July 15. “We are fighting against the racist and reactionary Republican agenda, and telling the Republicans: not here in Bay View, not here in Wisconsin, not anywhere!” Ceja said.

Rhen Lutz, a member of Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals (WFNHP) 5000, spoke about the union’s campaign to pass a city ordinance to keep healthcare services open in Black, Latino and immigrant neighborhoods of Milwaukee.

Representing United Auto Workers, John Drew read a statement from UAW President Shawn Fain, condemning the mass arrests of pro-Palestine protesters on campuses. “The UAW will never support the mass arrest or intimidation of those exercising their right to protest, strike, or speak out against injustice. Our union has been calling for a ceasefire for six months. This war is wrong, and this response against students and academic workers, many of them UAW members, is wrong.”

Drew also highlighted UAW’s record contract at the Big Three automakers, and their groundbreaking organizing win at Volkswagen in Tennessee.

The program ended with the singing of Solidarity Forever and was followed by more labor songs and socializing at Puddler’s Hall, an historic bar for rolling mill workers in Bay View.

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