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 revised the talk and slideshow a number of times, presenting it to other unions and DSA chapters until COVID put a stop to in-person appearances.

In 2020, 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 documentary filmmaker Rick Tejada-Flores and thought he would be a splendid addition to the group. Rick generously signed up. Rick contributed his considerable editing talents to assemble the parts.

Filmmaking is a collective project by nature, and We Mean to Make Things Over is a demonstration of that truism. Sophie Becker’s voiceover, Sokio’s original music, and Elise Bryant’s vocals over the instrumental work of the The 300 Club and Pat Wynne’s The Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Chorus, are all integral to the success of the video. Fred Glass is grateful for their contributions.

Walter Grane May Day