May Day honors workers’ rights


When Patrick Hughes’ ancestors came to the United States, they came for opportunities they didn’t have in their native lands.

Hughes, president of Iowa City Federation of Labor, compared his ancestors’ story to immigrants today.

“With current immigration law, I wouldn’t be standing here. Most of you wouldn’t be standing here,” Hughes said Friday during the May Day 2009 celebration in Iowa City.

May Day is celebrated throughout the world, honoring workers’ rights. In the U.S., May Day also brings to light the struggles of immigrants, said Ryan Spurgetis, a member of the May Day Organizing Committee. The Iowa City event Friday in the pedestrian mall included speakers, music, food and activists groups’ tables.

Current immigration laws don’t work for the common people, Hughes said.

“We’ve got an immigration system here that is broke,” he said.

Hughes encouraged unionization for all types of workers, including recent immigrants.

“As a carpenter, I used to be angry at those folks,” Hughes said. “But you know what, a carpenter is a carpenter.”

All are working for the same things, he said, money to put their kids through school or pay for a home.

Union workers are three times as likely to have health insurance and four times as likely to have a pension as a non-union worker.

“We need decent wages in this country. We need to rebuild the middle class,” Hughes said. “Union wages and union benefits rebuild the middle class.”

Karen Kubby, former executive director of the Emma Goldman Clinic who now co-owns Dawn’s Hide & Bead Away, encouraged the more than 30 people who gathered for the noon hour program to think of May Day not only as a remembrance of workers’ struggles, but for the many meanings of the word “may.”

In statements such as “May I have an eight-hour work day?” may is a permissive word, she said. In other statements such as “We may have real change in this country to have health care for all” the word may is full of potential, she said.

Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, spoke about the conditions in meat packing factories.

“Animals are seen as unfeeling units of production,” Baur said. “On today’s factory farms, unfortunately bad becomes normal” for animals, employees and consumers, he said.

Baur encouraged the people in attendance to empower agricultural systems that do not exploit animals and people, such as farmers markets and community gardening.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Remember workers’ rights


What comes to mind when you think of May Day? Baskets left on your front door? Candy? Flowers?

How about workers striking for labor rights? Unless you are from outside of the United States and Canada, the latter association is one with which you may not be familiar. Nearly everywhere in the world but the U.S., May 1 is International Workers’ Day or Labor Day — yet, this celebration of workers’ rights is based on an event that occurred on American soil. On May 3, 1886, in Chicago, striking workers from the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company gathered for a rally demanding an eight-hour work day. When the working day ended, a group of strikers non-violently confronted strikebreakers leaving the plant — and police fired on the crowd, killing two workers. The next day, May 4, a non-violent rally was called in front of the plant, located at Haymarket Square, to protest police violence. The rally occurred without much incident, until about 10:30 p.m., when the crowd was commanded to disperse by police, who began advancing on the speakers. An unknown person threw a pipe bomb into the crowd, and the police proceeded to open fire. In all, eight police officers and four workers were killed in the incident. Eight labor leaders were tried in connection with the bomb throwing — seven of them convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, in what has been characterized as a miscarriage of justice due to the spurious evidence against the defendants. Led by the American Federation of Labor, international workers called for a day of solidarity with workers in the fight for the eight-hour work day. May 1, 1890, was declared the date of the first International Workers’ Day, partly as a memorial to the Haymarket martyrs who died for workers’ rights, and has stood as a day of recognition for most of the world ever since. Due to the work of an alliance between politicians and conservative labor unions, the U.S. recognizes laborers in September, making a conscious decision to disassociate Labor Day from its radical beginnings. But May Day would not die. In 2006, May 1 was selected by immigrant rights’ groups in the U.S. for the Great American Boycott, a general strike by immigrant workers to protest immigration reform legislation. Also called “A Day Without an Immigrant,” the day was intended to highlight America’s dependency on immigrant workers. Millions of people across the country participated in marches, rallies and demonstrations.


The spirit of May Day continues in Iowa City as a day to honor those who have made great sacrifices both to ensure that many of us only have to work eight hours a day, five days a week, and to fight for those whose labor is still exploited.

We of the May Day Organizing Committee call upon the community to participate in this year’s May Day celebration. The event will be from noon to 9 p.m. Friday on the pedestrian mall in downtown Iowa City.

The laborer-and-immigrant rights centered festival will feature speakers including author Gene Bauer and other speakers during the noon hour. From 3 to 5 p.m. there will be labor and immigration-themed workshops, information tables of local social justice groups, a pie-eating contest, and the beginning of children’s activities. After 5 p.m. there will be speakers and music by local artists, including Liberty Leg and Matt Grimm and the Red Smear. For more information, contact

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

May Day Schedule


If there’s bad weather (looks like there’s a chance), events will be held at the Wesley Center at 120 N. Dubuque Street starting at 3PM.

Otherwise, here’s the schedule as of Thursday. A concrete one will be available for handout on the day itself and will be distributed downtown.

12:00 – 12:20 Gene Bauer, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, on Conditions in Meat Packing Factories

12:20 – 12:35 Patrick Hughes, President of Iowa City Federation of Labor, on Employee Free Choice Act

12:35 – 12:50 Karen Kubby, former Executive Director of the Emma Goldman Clinic, on The History of May Day

12:50 – 3:00 BREAK

3:00 – 3:40 Vernon Jackson, on the Prison Industrial Complex

3:40 – 4:00 Hula Hoop contest

4:00 – 4:40 Carlos Rich, Midwest Immigrant Health Project, on Combating Anti-Immigrant Racism

4:40 – 5:00 Piece of the Pie Eating Contest

5:00 – 5:20 Dow Voss, on History of Labor Movement and Current Issues

5:20 – 5:30 Dave Leshtz, Representative Loebsack’s office, on Upcoming Immigration Legislation

5:30 – 5:45 Amy Logsden, Iowa Citizen Action Network Political Director

5:45 – 6:25 Band – Televangelists

6:25 – 6:40 Paul Street, political author and commentator, on Radical Movements for Economic Change

6:40 – 6:55 Carlos Rich, Immigrant Access to Health Care

6:55 – 7:35 Band – Matt Grimm and the Red Smear

7:35 – 7:50

7:50 – 8:05 Juan Manuel Galvez Ibarra, University of Iowa College of Public Health Center for Health Communication & Social Marketing, on the Humanitarian Challenges Faced by Latino Immigrants

8:05 – 8:50 Band – Liberty Leg


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Second Press Release


Date: Monday April 27, 2009


May Day has been a significant date for many working people since the late 19th century. From the battles over the 8-hour day to the general strike, walkouts and rallies of 2006, workers have utilized May 1 to gather with each other and assert their rights.

The May Day Organizing Committee is an Iowa City group made up of members involved in local labor, community and student organizations. We are planning events and activities centered around worker and immigrant rights issues for Friday May 1, 2009 in the downtown pedestrian mall of Iowa City starting at 12-1 PM, then continuing from 3-9 PM.

There will be guest speakers, music, food, informational tables, and children’s activities. Everyone is encouraged and welcome to attend.

Some of the speakers:

  • Gene Baur is an activist, best-selling author, and president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, the first animal rescue organization dedicated to farmed animals. Gene will be speaking about working conditions in the agricultural and meatpacking industries.

  • Paul Street is a journalist, author, historian, political commentator and Iowa City resident. Paul will be speaking about the ‘people’s economic stimulus plan’.

  • Patrick Hughes is the President of the Iowa City Federation of Labor. Patrick will be speaking about the Employee Free Choice Act.

If there is bad weather, activities will be held in the Wesley Center starting at 3PM

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bad Weather Backup: Wesley Center


120 N. Dubuque St.
Iowa City, IA 52245

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Next Meeting


Date: Sunday, April 26, 2009
Place: Iowa City Public Library
Time: 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Room D

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized



Here are the flyers made for May Day below in PDF form. Print them, xerox them, distribute them, post them up everywhere!


Construction Worker (English)

Construction Worker (Spanish)

Woman Raised Fist (English)

Woman Raised Fist (Spanish)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized