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The economic hardships and the gathering strength of trade unionism in the mid-1880s inspired a strong resurgence of the eight-hour movement. Implementing the eight-hour day became a primary mission of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, organized in 1881. This group became the American Federation of Labor late in 1886. At its 1884 national convention, the FOTLU declared that as of the beginning of May 1886, eight hours would constitute a day's work.
This kind of focus on a specific goal helped gain new members and increased cooperation across trades and socialist political organizations. In the months following the declaration, numerous businesses throughout the nation acceded to the eight-hour demand, though many also resisted, and a great show of unity was planned for Saturday, May 1, 1886, when workers would dramatize their solidarity and their power by laying down their tools.
Chicago was at the center of the eight-hour movement, which was embraced by a wide variety of advocates with otherwise different beliefs and agendas. Chicago's Central Labor Union issued the broadside on display here (the reverse has the same text in German) in 1886. The CLU had been formed in 1884 in pointed opposition to the Amalgamated Trades and Labor Assembly, which the more militant unionists in the city thought was too moderate. The CLU's membership allied with the International Working-People's Association, the revolutionary socialist collective formed at the Pittsburgh Congress of 1883.
The broadside text expresses the CLU's position on eight hours. Taking the "practicability" of the shorter work day as a given, the broadside focuses on how eight hours can be secured by organizing with other workers and fighting the capitalist order on all fronts. The broadside also calls for a boycott of the churches, newspapers, and other institutions that support and defend this order.
But the highest imperative is to join the union cause and, in so doing, to "make war upon the existing miserable state of affairs and secure your rights and independence." On Sunday, April 25, six days before the May Day deadline, the CLU sponsored an eight-hour demonstration on the Lake Front that drew twenty-five thousand supporters and included speeches by August Spies, Albert Parsons, Samuel Fielden, and Michael Schwab.
One sign of the times was that by the Haymarket meeting the CLU's combined membership was considerably larger than that of the Assembly. Both, however, supported the eight-hour campaign, as did numerous people who did not earn their livings by the work of their hands, including Mayor Harrison. The most extreme anarchists, however, did not support the eight-hour movement. See, for example, a critique of the movement published in the Alarm on September 5, 1885. It is included as People's Exhibit 50 in the Haymarket Affair Digital Collection.