Commemorating “Loyalty Day,” instead of “May Day,” Is Essentially an Insult to Workers and Their Unions

Yesterday, the White House issued this proclamation:

“On Loyalty Day, we renew our conviction to the principles of liberty, equality, and justice under the law. We accept our responsibilities to one another. And we remember that our differences pale in comparison to the strength of the bonds that hold together the most diverse Nation on earth.

“In order to recognize the American spirit of loyalty and the sacrifices that so many have made for our Nation, the Congress, by Public Law 85-529 as amended, has designated May 1 of each year as ‘Loyalty Day.’ On this day, let us reaffirm our allegiance to the United States of America and pay tribute to the heritage of American freedom.

“Now, therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2014, as Loyalty Day.

“This Loyalty Day, I call upon all the people of the United States to join in support of this national observance, whether by displaying the flag of the United States or pledging allegiance to the Republic for which it stands.”

I didn’t expect that the White House to issue a proclamation in honor of May Day. Never mind that in 80 other countries, May Day, or May 1, is also known and celebrated as International Workers Day. But because that workers’ holiday became associated with communism, anarchism, and syndicalism, the Labor Day holiday in the United States was moved from May 1 to the first Monday in September.

Loyalty Day is, however, an invention of those behind the first Red Scare period of the early 1920s, when it was conceived as an alternative to May Day, and it became an officially recognized, designated day during the second Red Scare period of the early 1950s. Thus, Loyalty Day reflects the Far Right’s equivocation of unionization and communism and its willingness to abrogate workers’ rights in the service of its self-serving notions of patriotism.

So why a Democratic president, who has received overwhelming support from this nation’s public- and private-sector unions, would, like every other U.S. president since Eisenhower, feel compelled to issue these annual proclamations, without fail, in order to mark this almost wholly ignored holiday might be much more puzzling than why he did not issue such a proclamation to mark May Day.

Then again, unlike progressive legislators such as Senator Sherrod Brown in my own state of Ohio, President Obama has always been reluctant to be associated with unions. On Labor Day, he has praised workers without mentioning unions, and to celebrate the contributions of workers, he has visited companies such as Amazon that are led by outspokenly anti-union business leaders.


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