Timeline of International Workers Day (May Day) in Australia.

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Photo: May Day March held in Adelaide, early 1970s.
1791: Australia had its first strike when Sydney convicts demand daily rations instead of weekly rations.
1829: Printing Compositors and Carpenters win the right to be paid with real money, instead of rum.
1854: The Eureka Stockade in Ballarat is stormed by police and troops (30 miners and five troopers are killed). The miners are found not guilty of rebellion.
1855:  August 18. Sydney stonemasons win 8-hour day, (6-day week).
1856: Australian workers in Australia decide to organise a day of complete stoppage together with meetings and entertainment in support of the Eight Hour Day. The day had such strong support that it is decided to repeat the Celebration every year.
1859: The first Trades Hall is opened in Melbourne.
1881: New South Wales recognises Trade Union Rights.
1881: Tailoresses in Melbourne form Australia’s first female trade union to fight cuts to their piecework rates.
1882: The Adelaide Typographical Society sets up a workers’ political party with other trade unions.
1886: The Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, USA, is seen as the catalyst for International Workers Day. Outrage as four unionists are executed triggering worldwide action
1891: In Barcaldine, Queensland, shearers go on strike. On 1st May, a parade of over 1300 unionists celebrate May Day. Their strike leads to the formation of the Australian Labor Party.
1891: Adelaide has its first May Day March, after a long period of unrest on the Port Adelaide Docks.
1892: Broken Hill miners strike over wage cuts and use of scab labour.
1904: The Conciliation and Arbitration Act is passed and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is established.
1907: Justice Higgins hands down the ‘Harvester Judgment’ which establishes the principle of the ‘basic wage’.
1916: The WW1 Conscription Referendum is narrowly defeated after the use of the Unlawful Associations Act fails to stop protests. A Second Referendum in 1917 is soundly defeated.
1928: Savage cuts to the wages and conditions of wharfies, coal miners and timber workers bring on a period of long strikes.
1929: Wall Street stock market crashes heralding start of The Great Depression.
1934: Peace activist and anti-Nazi Egon Kisch beats deportation laws and addresses anti-war rally in Sydney.
1936: Spanish Civil War erupts. Seventy Australians enlist in the Free International Brigades.
1938: Wharfies refuse Attorney-General Menzies’ order to load pig-iron for Japan.
1939: Menzies becomes Prime Minister, declares war on Germany.
1941: Nazi Germany invades Russia. Menzies resigns: Curtin becomes Prime Minister
1943: ‘Sheepskins for Russia’ Appeal gets huge support from workers.
1951: Australian voters reject the Commonwealth Referendum to outlaw the Communist Party.
1969: Half a million workers strike in support of Tramways Union Secretary Clarrie O’Shea’s release from Gaol.
1998: Patrick Stevedores and the Howard Government use masked scab labor, trained in Dubai, to launch an attack on the wages and conditions of Maritime Union workers.
2007: Australian voters get behind a massive ‘Your Rights at Work’ Campaign, that rejects Howard’s Workchoices legislation and elects a Labor government.
2008: Ark Tribe refuses to attend a conference of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) held to determine the legality of CFMEU members attending a safety meeting at the Flinders University Construction site.
2010: Julia Gillard becomes Australia’s first woman Prime Minister.
2010: Ark Tribe cleared of all charges in November.
2013:  Federal election on 7 September results in an Abbott-led government, Hockey’s first budget sees Abbott’s popularity tumble.
2014: Release of the imprisoned Cuban Five after 17 years of struggle paves the way for improved US-Cuba relations.
2015: Government cuts see the spectre of rising unemployment.
via History of May Day in Australia: Timeline – May Day SA.

The Eight Hour Day Struggle in Australia.

Melbourne_eight_hour_day_march-c1900Eight-hour day march circa 1900, outside Parliament House in Spring Street, Melbourne.
The Australian gold rushes attracted many skilled tradesmen to Australia. Some of them had been active in the chartist movement, and subsequently became prominent in the campaign for better working conditions in the Australian colonies.
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Eight-hour day banner, Melbourne, 1856
The Stonemasons’ Society in Sydney issued an ultimatum to employers on 18 August 1855 saying that after six months masons would work only an eight-hour day.
Due to the rapid increase in population caused by the gold rushes, many buildings were being constructed, so skilled labour was scarce.
Stonemasons working on the Holy Trinity Church and the Mariners’ Church (an evangelical mission to seafarers), decided not to wait and pre-emptively went on strike, thus winning the eight-hour day.
They celebrated with a victory dinner on 1 October 1855 which to this day is celebrated as a Labour Day holiday in the state of New South Wales. When the six-month ultimatum expired in February 1856, stonemasons generally agitated for a reduction of hours.
Although opposed by employers, a two-week strike on the construction of Tooth’s Brewery on Parramatta Road proved effective, and stonemasons won an eight-hour day by early March 1856, but with a reduction in wages to match.
Agitation was also occurring in Melbourne where the craft unions were more militant. Stonemasons working on Melbourne University organized to down tools on 21 April 1856 and march to Parliament House with other members of the building trade.
The movement in Melbourne was led by veteran chartists and mason James Stephens, T.W. Vine and James Galloway. The government agreed that workers employed on public works should enjoy an eight-hour day with no loss of pay and Stonemasons celebrated with a holiday and procession on Monday 12 May 1856, when about 700 people marched with 19 trades involved.
By 1858 the eight-hour day was firmly established in the building industry.
From 1879 the eight-hour day was a public holiday in Victoria. The initial success in Melbourne led to the decision to organize a movement, to actively spread the eight-hour idea, and secure the condition generally.
In 1903 veteran socialist Tom Mann spoke to a crowd of a thousand people at the unveiling of the Eight Hour Day monument, funded by public subscription, on the south side of Parliament House.
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Eight-hour day procession by miners in Wyalong, New South Wales – late 1890s
It took further campaigning and struggles by trade unions to extend the reduction in hours to all workers in Australia.
In 1916 the Victoria Eight Hours Act was passed granting the eight-hour day to all workers in the state. The eight-hour day was not achieved nationally until the 1920s.
The Commonwealth Arbitration Court gave approval of the 40-hour five-day working week nationally beginning on 1 January 1948.
The achievement of the eight-hour day has been described by historian Rowan Cahill as “one of the great successes of the Australian working class during the nineteenth century, demonstrating to Australian workers that it was possible to successfully organize, mobilize, agitate, and exercise significant control over working conditions and quality of life.
The Australian trade union movement grew out of eight-hour campaigning and the movement that developed to promote the principle.”
The intertwined numbers 888 soon adorned the fronts of many union buildings around Australia.
The Eight Hour March, which began on April 21, 1856, continued each year until 1951 in Melbourne, when the conservative Victorian Trades Hall Council decided to forgo the tradition for the Moomba festival on the Labour Day weekend.
In capital cities and towns across Australia, Eight Hour day marches became a regular social event each year, with early marches often restricted to those workers who had won an eight-hour day.
via Eight-hour day – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Union of Australian Women on the march, 1963.

Black and white image of women carrying a banner which reads ‘Union of Australian Women’ in the 1963 May Day March in Melbourne.
This photograph was taken by G.W. Bell of Melbourne.
Description Of Content:
Women Marching in May Day March carrying a banner, there are church spires in the background behind them.
Museum Victoria.

Henrietta Dugdale, an Australian women’s rights and suffrage pioneer.

It should always be the aim of woman to rise from the degrading position assigned her in the age of bestial ignorance and brute power.
Henrietta Dugdale (1827–1918) was a passionate, confident, and assertive feminist who was one of the pioneers of Victoria, Australia’s feminist movement.
She founded the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society, the first of its kind in Australasia, and lived to see Australian women attain the vote in 1902, due in part to her relentless campaigning.
Henrietta was born Henrietta Augusta Worrell on May 14, 1827 in London, and named after her mother, Henrietta Ann.
She sewed her own clothes and was a skilled chess player, and early on became interested in public affairs. In 1852, she moved to Australia with her husband, a merchant navy officer named J. A. Davies. He died soon after, and she remarried the ship’s captain William Dugdale in 1853.
After over 15 years of marriage, Henrietta separated from William Dugdale and moved to Camberwell (a suburb of Melbourne), where she was to live for the rest of her long life.
Henrietta’s involvement in campaigning for women’s rights began in earnest when she wrote a letter to Melbourne’s Argus Newspaper that was published in April 1869. Using the psuedonym of Ada, she wrote about the Married Women’s Property Bill and spoke out in favor of equal justice for all women:
Along with suffrage for women, she campaigned for women’s dress reform, admission of women to the universities, education of the working class and more equal wealth distribution, and an eight-hour work day.
Along with Annie Lowe, Henrietta founded the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society in 1884 with the goal of obtaining “the same political privileges for women as now possessed my male voters”.
Source: Henrietta Dugdale, Australian women’s rights and suffrage pioneer

International Women’s Day: Who was Clara Zetkin?

As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the globe, we look back at the woman who organised the first one in 1911.
The 8 March marks International Women’s Day, a day with over a century of history and change behind it.
Originally known as International Working Women’s Day, its roots lie in the socialist, rather than feminist, struggle of the early 20th century.
Although national days had been celebrated prior to 1911, the 18 March of that year marked the first International day, following a proposal from German communist Clara Zetkin.Zetkin who had been involved with the socialist movement in Germany since the 1870’s.
She was also a fervent campaigner for women’s rights and universal suffrage. Zetkin believed socialism was the only movement that ‘could truly serve the needs of working-class women.’
Zetkin was renowned throughout her career for her passionate oratory skills. She represented the German Communist Party in the Reichstag from 1920 until 1933 (when the party was banned by Hitler).
Her election to the Reichstag in 1932 made her its oldest member, and tradition dictated she opened the parliamentary session. She did so with a 40 minute attack on Hitler and the Nazi party.
Zetkin died in 1933. In her obituary the Manchester Guardian referred to her as the ‘grandmother of communism,’ yet the legacy of International Women’s Day, and her contribution to it, should also be recognised, and celebrated.
Source: International Women’s Day: Who was Clara Zetkin? | From the Guardian | The Guardian

The Role of Women in History and Politics.

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Women played an active role in political reform in the Georgian era. 1819 ©Trustees of the British Museum
The women’s history project has been absolutely brilliant in opening our eyes to such a significant (but mainly unspoken) part of our country’s (and the world’s) history.
Our perceptions on the role of women in history is primarily based on stereotypes and uneducated inferences that women have been merely passive witnesses in the building of our current society, and it was only men who really made any impact.
A lot of us aim to excuse this by relying on the idea that women had limited opportunity.
However, the project has taught us that although this is partly true, women did a lot more than we first assumed.
These false assumptions can be argued to be a result of how women are represented on the curriculum, with us knowing lots about influential kings, prime ministers, archbishops, male scientists and authors etc. but little about not only influential women as individuals (e.g. Mary Seacole, Marie Curie etc.), but of the gender as a whole.
We were extremely surprised to learn of the Georgian political protesters, as the only thing we are taught about the role of women in politics is the movement of women’s suffrage in the early 1900s, and even then this topic is separated and highlighted as an exception and is only about their fight for equality, not the influence they have had throughout history and how they helped shape society into what it is today.
Read further via Why Women’s History? | Teaching Women’s History.

The Sad Tale of ‘People’s Hero’ Wat Tyler 1381.

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Pictured is poor old Wat Tyler being slain by one of Richard the Second’s thugs during the Peasant’s Rebellion in England during June, 1381.
Just when Wat Tyler and thousands of peasants (mainly women) were getting the upper hand in the Peasant’s Rebellion Wat Tyler made a terrible and fatal mistake.
He trusted the word of the Monarch who said,  “Wat old chap let’s meet to see if we can stop these horrible women peasants from murdering rich people and stealing their fine cutlery”.
So Wat being a lowly peasant thought he’s the King I should trust him and have a nice quiet peaceful chat
WRONG! Wat never got the chance to even get off his horse before he was repeatedly stabbed by some of Richard’s henchman and was soon dead.
Probably, got hung, drawn and quartered as well just for good measure.
Needless to say the Peasant’s Rebellion fell in a great screaming heap and the Nobles took their vengeance on England’s poor.
They were fair game you see and fox hunting hadn’t been invented yet and hunting down and slaughtering humans was so much better fun!
derwombat

 

The Peterloo Massacre,1819.

The Peterloo Massacre published by Richard Carlile in 1819. Photograph: Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives
On the morning of 16 August 1819, an immense crowd poured into Manchester, perhaps the largest the town had ever seen.
They came in an orderly and peaceful fashion. Banners bearing slogans such as “Liberty and Fraternity” and “Taxation without Representation is Unjust and Tyrannical” flapped in the breeze, and bands played patriotic tunes including Rule Britannia and God Save the King. It was a fine and sunny day.
On they came in cheerful mood; organised contingents from Bolton and Bury; 6,000 marching from Rochdale and Middleton; others from Saddleworth and Stalybridge; 200 women dressed in white from Oldham, together with families bringing their children and picnics with them.
If later estimates that 60,000 people gathered at St Peter’s Fields that day are correct, it means that practically half the population of Manchester and the surrounding towns (a crowd somewhat larger than that at Manchester City home matches today) had come to attend a meeting calling for parliamentary reform.
Having the vote mattered, they believed; it would change everything and force politicians to listen to their views and needs – and respond.
A young businessman, 25-year-old John Benjamin Smith, was watching with his aunt from a window overlooking the open space on the edge of the town near St Peter’s Church.

He later wrote: “There were crowds of people in all directions, full of good humour, laughing and shouting and making fun … It seemed to be a gala day with the country people who were mostly dressed in their best and brought with them their wives, and when I saw boys and girls taking their father’s hand in the procession, I observed to my aunt: ‘These are the guarantees of their peaceable intentions – we need have no fears.’”
The people were expecting speeches and a good day out. What they were not anticipating was violence, carried out by troops sent in to disperse them, so aggressively that 18 people would be killed and more than 650 injured in the bloodiest political clash in British history.

The Massacre of Peterloo! or a Specimen of English Liberty by JL Marks. Photograph: The Art Archive/Rex/Shutterstock
What happened at St Peter’s Fields would become known as the Peterloo Massacre – a name coined by a local journalist named James Wroe in punning reference to the Battle of Waterloo four years earlier.
Wroe paid for the joke by seeing his radical newspaper, the Manchester Observer, closed down, and was himself sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for seditious libel.
Read on via Source: The bloody clash that changed Britain | News | The Guardian

Australia’s Vietnam Moratoriums.

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It was a time of great upheaval in Australia, when the ordinary people said “enough is enough”, and went out into the streets to protest.
The conflict in Vietnam was going poorly because the American and Australian Governments  had so badly underestimated the strength and purpose of the North Vietnamese people.
The Vietnam Moratorium held in Melbourne on 5 May, 1970, was huge with veteran Labor Politician Jim Cairns taking centre stage in a stinging rebuff to the Coalition Government for its blind support of the American Government’s policies in South Vietnam.
FXJ272193Leading the Moratorium March Jim Cairns and Tom Uren (Front Row: fourth and third in from the right).
Derwombat
 

The Miners Who Exposed the Horrors of Black Lung.

Harry Fain, coal loader. Inland Steel Company, Wheelwright #1 & 2 Mines, Wheelwright, Floyd County, Kentucky. 1946.via Wikimedia Commons
Jessie Wright-Mendoza
From the Mine Wars to Bloody Harlan, the coal miners of Appalachia have a long and storied history of fighting for the rights and protections often denied to them while mining the region’s rich bituminous coal.
So when men who had worked their whole lives underground began dying in increasing numbers from a chronic respiratory illness, their lungs literally blackened from years of inhaling coal dust, Appalachians did as they have often done.
As labor studies scholar Alan Derickson writes, they organized a grassroots movement to challenge the deadly working conditions in the coal mines.
Coal mining has always been a dangerous job, but by the 1950s, technological advances that automated some of the miner’s tasks, like the continuous miner, had succeeded in reducing the number of deaths and injuries from mechanical accidents.
But the new equipment also significantly increased miner’s exposure to coal dust, leading to a spike in the number of workers afflicted by black lung disease.
Eventually, over 40,000 workers participated in a strike that advocated for better workplace safety measures.
Black lung, also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, is a terminal respiratory condition caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. Particles of dust settle into the lungs, progressively weakening the organs and causing shortness of breath and coughing fits.
Later stages of the disease cause chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Because black lung can lie dormant for years, appearing long after a miner had left the job, coal operators denied the connection between coal mining and black lung for decades.
According to the Department of Labor, more than 76,000 miners have died from the disease.
Read on via Source: The Militant Miners Who Exposed the Horrors of Black Lung | JSTOR Daily