May Day in Maine, New Unions on the Way!
By Tom Whitney
May Day in Maine this year had victories to celebrate. Organizers announced April 29 that nurses at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine’s largest hospital, had voted – 57% of them – to have a union. A vote count was reported a week earlier showing that workers at the Portland, Maine, Museum of Art had also chosen to form a union
Now the Maine State Nurses Association, affiliated with National Nurses United, will be representing some 2000 nurses in the Portland area. That union already serves nurses at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, in Bangor, the state’s other major referral center. The museum workers will be affiliating with United Auto Workers Local 2110.
News of these two wins spread at well-attended Workers’ Day rallies held May 1 in Bangor, Augusta, and Portland. Speakers welcomed the strengthening of labor power in Maine. They pushed for passage of the “Protecting the Right to Organize Act” (the PRO Act) introduced in the current Congress and aimed at undoing dire effects of the Taft-Hartley Law of 1947.
With a big assist from Maine unions, the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialist of America organized the well-attended rallies that attracted activists of varying orientation. The business at hand, according to DSA publicity, was “liberation of all workers everywhere.”
The victory of the Maine Medical Center nurses was highly significant, especially in view of obstacles put in their way by the Hospital’s management. Commending the nurses, Cynthia Phinney, president of the Maine AFL-CIO, pointed out that, “Their solidarity, courage and strength throughout this pandemic and in the face of an expensive anti-union campaign by hospital management is remarkable and an inspiration to all workers,”
The nurses’ campaign gained considerable public support, as indicated by a letter signed by 60 state lawmakers addressed to hospital executives asking them to remain neutral. Maine Senate President Troy Jackson of Aroostook County spearheaded the effort.
These and other nurses assuredly warrant popular support, especially as they push back against monetary imperatives that increasingly shape healthcare decision-making. Maine Medical Center nurse Janel Crowley, speaking to Maine Public Radio, explained: “This is pretty much all patient-driven. We saw gaps in the care that our patients were able to receive because of policies …That’s why we’re trying to get this seat at the table, to really deal with the people who make the decisions that have no real direct line to the bedside.”
We Maine Communists congratulate the nurses and the Museum workers. And we applaud DSA for putting on the May Day rallies, which we joined with enthusiasm. They were just what the doctor and nurse ordered for raising the banner of “People over Profits.”
May Day Reading List
May 1st is International Workers’ Day, a festival of working-class self-organization stretching back over 130 years. It was initially established to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, where a bomb thrown during a worker’s strike triggered a wave of anti-labor reaction. In 1890, the first internationally organized demonstration for an 8-hour day was held, in commemoration of those killed in the police-led massacre, including four anarchists: AlbertParsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer, and George Engel who were executed by hanging. In recognition of the day and a proud legacy of struggle that will continue until all forms of oppression are overcome, the Communist Party of Maine offers a reading list for May Day.
- Black Worker in the Deep South: A Personal Account / Hosea Hudson
- International Publishers Co; 2nd ed. edition (May 1, 1991)
In this autobiography Hosea Hudson (1898 – 1988) tells a little-known story that deserves a much wider audience. He worked as a sharecropper in in the deep south, steel-mill worker, union representative and communist. He was a militant fighter against racist oppression and economic exploitation. The odyssey of Hosea Hudson, from a poor Klan-ridden rural county in Georgia to his success as an esteemed labor and civil rights leaders in Birmingham, Alabama, is a story of courage and commitment, a narrative for our time.
- The Communist Manifesto / Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles
- Monthly Review Press; 150th edition (April 1, 1998)
- 209 pages
This is the definitive edition of the Communist Manifesto, prepared for its 150th anniversary. It opens with a foreword by the late Paul M. Sweezy, co-founder and long-time editor of Monthly Review, and a leading Marxist economic theorist of the post war 20th century era. This edition contains the full text of the Manifesto, the important dialectic Principles of Communism, drafted by Engels in 1847 as a basis for the Manifesto, and “The Communist Manifesto After 150 Years,” a far-reaching interpretive essay by the late Ellen Meiksins Wood, American-Canadian Marxist political theorist, historian and co-editor of Monthly Review.
- Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America / James Green
- Anchor; Reprint edition (March 13, 2007)
- 400 pages
In Death in the Haymarket, James Green recovers forgotten dreams. America, it seems, “could have become a cooperative commonwealth instead of a competitive camp of capitalism.” So, what happened in 1886? On May 4th, a bomb exploded at a Chicago labor rally, wounding dozens of policemen, killing seven. Panic roiled the country, leading to a farcical trial, that ended in four notoriously unjust executions, and derailed the labor movement for decades thereafter. Green details the rise of a major, postbellum labor movement and recounts a heroic struggle for the eight-hour workday. It was a new kind of labor movement. It drew in immigrants and common laborers. A wave of strikes swept Chicago. Green calls it, “the great refusal.” The ruling class was horrified. Green has made another important contribution to the history of American capitalism and told a poignant story about the class-struggle in a Gilded Age.
- Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical / Jacqueline Jones
- Basic Books; Illustrated edition (December 5, 2017)
- 480 pages
Jacqueline Jones narrates the remarkable life of Lucy Parsons, agitator, organizer and oratorical firebrand. Lucy Parsons is best remembered for her role in the Haymarket events, for which her husband Albert Parsons and three other framed defendants were hung, and for her decades-long campaign to keep the memory of the Haymarket Martyrs alive. Jones has written an extensively researched and authoritative biography. Lucy Parsons was a courageous champion of the working class, a fierce anti-capitalist, and one of the most prominent figures of African descent of her era. Her life was complex and her actions not always consistent with the values she espoused. Jones’s critical view compliments Carolyn Ashbaugh’s fine biography, Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary, that provides a more nuanced analysis of how this extraordinary woman negotiated the radical, labor and anarchist movements of her time.
- Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression / Robin D.G. Kelley
- University of North Carolina Press; 25th Anniversary edition (August 3, 2015)
- 412 pages
Robin D.G. Kelley is the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at UCLA and the author of several groundbreaking books, including the landmark Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression, reissued here in a 25th Anniversary edition with a new preface by the author. Kelley tells the story of how, during the Great Depression and WWII eras, Communists defied Alabama’s brutal, racist police state in a struggle for economic justice, civil rights, and racial equality. The Alabama Communist Party was comprised of semiliterate black laborers and sharecroppers, and a handful of whites, including unemployed industrial workers, housewives, youth, and liberals. The author shows how ordinary but exceptional folk from rural and urban Alabama influenced the Communist Party’s tactics and distinctive political culture. They created a strong and resilient movement in a racist environment that was intolerant of dissent. Hammer and Hoe is a history with important lessons contemporary social activists facing institutional racism, police violence, neoliberalism, and political repression.
- The Haymarket Tragedy / Paul Avrich
- Princeton University Press; Centennial edition (May 1, 1986)
- 556 pages
Paul Avrich’s sympathetic account of how eight anarchists who were blamed for the bombing at a workers’ meeting near Chicago’s Haymarket Square excited the imagination focused the resistance of labor and radical activists of that era and beyond. Avrich was a historian of the 19th and early 20th century anarchist movement in Russia and the United States. He was among the first American exchange students to study in the USSR when it opened during the Khrushchev Thaw. In this classic history, he created a stirring narrative of the notorious Haymarket bombing of May 1886 and the trial that followed it–a trial that has since been known as one of the most unjust in American legal history.
- A History of America in Ten Strikes / Erik Loomis
- The New Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 2020)
- 320 pages
Historian Erik Loomis describes ten key workers’ strikes in American labor history in ten instructive essays that are as engaging as they are educational. There is much to learn from both Labor’s wins and losses. From the ‘Bread and Roses’ to ‘Justice for Janitors,’ Loomis shows the potential and promise of the labor movement. Collective action to democratize the workplace and to create a just society comes alive in these pages and breathes life into contemporary efforts to revitalize the movement. The challenges facing the labor movement are formidable, but this is also a time of hope. These ten historic strikes speak clearly to the present moment, where American workers are still struggling to overcome oppression and exploitation at the hands of insatiable capitalists. Loomis has penned a worthy read for a new generation of worker militants, ready to fight for a beleaguered working class.
- The Incomplete, true, authentic, and wonderful history of May Day / Peter Linebaugh
- PM Press (April 1, 2016)
- 200 pages
Of Peter Linebaugh it has been said, “There is not a more important historian living today. Period.” Here, Linebaugh writes about the magnificent history of May Day. May 1st, a day that once made the rich and powerful “tremble,” a day to remember that workers “have nothing to lose but their chains” and “a world to win.” Linebaugh on the Red and the Green. Hope resides in the stories of Marx & Engles, Lucy Parsons, W. E. B. Du Bois, Rosa Luxemburg, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, José Martí, SNCC, and many others. Linebaugh upholds possible futures of a restored commons and a better world.
- The Long Deep Grudge: A Story of Big Capital, Radical Labor, and Class War in the American Heartland / Toni Gilpin
- Haymarket Books (February 25, 2020)
- 425 pages
This book details the conflict between International Harvester and the Farm Equipment Workers union. The union-busting, industrial, giant against the radical unionists, with links to the Communist Party. It reads like a novel but carries a serious message. The Long Deep Grudge makes clear that class warfare along with racism and resistance has been, and remains, central to the American experience.
- May Day: A Short History of the International Workers’ Holiday, 1886-1986 / Philip S. Foner
- International Publishers; 1st edition (May 1, 1986)
- 192 pages
Philip S. Foner was a prolific Marxist historian with more than 100 books to his credit. He is best remembered for best remembered for his 10-volume History of the Labor Movement in the United States, published between 1947 and 1994. This is the story of International Worker’s Day. The holiday started in the United States in the 1880s and since 1890 celebrated by working people worldwide. Professor Foner explains May Day origins and describes observances throughout the years. It is a story of popular struggle for peace and liberation.
- May Day Manifesto 1968 / by Raymond Williams and Owen Jones
- Verso (May 8, 2018)
- 224 pages
The 50th anniversary edition of the classic political manifesto, an essential text of the British New Left. The spirit of The May Day Manifesto offers a road map to a brighter future. The original publication brought together the most influential radical voices of the era. Among the seventy signatories were Raymond Williams, E. P. Thompson, Stuart Hall, Iris Murdoch, Terry Eagleton, Ralph Miliband, and R. D. Laing. This edition comes with an introduction from Owen Jones, Labor Party activist and newspaper columnist, The Guardian, who brings a sense of urgency and hope to the arguments of a troubled present.
- Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg / Kate Evans and Paul Buhle
- Verso; Illustrated edition (November 3, 2015)
- 224 pages
A major figure of the Left, Rosa Luxemburg is one of the leading thinkers in the catalog of revolutionary socialist thought. But she was much more than an intellectual. Rosa made herself heard in a world hostile to the voices of women. She overcame physical adversity and anti-Semitic bigotry to become an internationally revered revolutionary. Steadfastly opposed to WWI, when other socialists were seduced by the appeals to nationalism, she was imprisoned and murdered in 1919 championing a revolution that faced imminent defeat. In this beautifully illustrated graphic biography, writer and artist Kate Evans reveals this essential world class revolutionary to a generation.