Background

Several years ago, Fred Glass was making appearances and giving talks drawn from topics in his new book, From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement (University of California Press, 2016). The union of community college teachers in San Diego asked him to return on May Day and talk about the story behind the holiday — why it is celebrated all over the world, but not here — to students and faculty.

By coincidence, the California Federation of Teachers, Fred’s former employer, had just asked him to come to Sacramento and testify on Assembly Bill AB 3042 (Santiago), proposing to make May Day a state holiday, with associated curriculum, so that students would understand this neglected (suppressed, really) part of American labor history. 

Fred’s testimony at the Assembly committee hearing helped the bill move through committee, but it died on the Assembly floor. The testimony wasn’t wasted; it became the kernel of the talk for San Diego.

A couple weeks later, staying at the house of his friends Jim Miller and Kelly Mayhew, activists in the union, Fred finished the slideshow at their kitchen table just in time for the presentation. Since then Fred has continuously revised the talk and slideshow, presenting it to other unions and DSA chapters each year. Last year, noting that the number of May Day demonstrations around the country had been slowly but steadily growing, he decided it was time to turn the talk into a video. He asked Jos Sances if he would like to contribute images. Jos produced two dozen scratchboard drawings (including some on this website). Around the same time, in the fall, Fred was working with California DSA chapters on the Prop 15 campaign to bring much needed revenue to schools and communities through a split roll tax. He was very impressed with the art and short explainer video contributed by Los Angeles DSA member Paul Zappia to the Prop 15 campaign. Fred asked Paul to join the project to help animate the images and was delighted when he agreed.

Fred and Jos had each worked on various projects over the years with Rick Tejada-Flores and thought he would be a splendid addition to the group. Rick generously signed up. Rick will contribute his considerable editing talents to help assemble the pieces.

Over the years Fred has been stirred by the vocal performances of Elise Bryant and knew that the Eight Hour Song from the 1880s would best be sung by her. He is grateful that she came on board without hesitation.

Walter Grane May Day