Labor and community leaders are to join 500 students from the Tilden Middle School this afternoon at Elmwood Park to celebrate International Labor Day and to announce a project to build a labor monument in the park at 71st Street and Buist Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia.
The proposed monument, to be created by Irish artist John Kindness, will include photographs of workers from Philadelphia's industrial history. The photographs will be mounted on benches, designed to give the community a gathering place and an outdoor history lesson. The monument will also include engraved tables fashioned to look like the metal engraved buttons on the denim clothes worn by many earlier workers. Each table will have a labor image. For example, one could be of union leader Eugene V. Debs, a founder of International Workers of the World and a Socialist Party candidate for President.
International Labor Day is held in remembrance of May 1, 1886, when workers around the United States walked out to push for an eight-hour workday. Four picketers were shot in Chicago during a May 3 rally and eight were arrested the next day when they protested the shootings. Four of the eight were hanged. Fifty years earlier, in 1835, Philadelphia workers went on a general strike to win a 10-hour workday.
Organizers include the Friends of Elmwood Park and the the Pennsylvania Labor History Society. The Fairmount Park Art Association commissioned the project, titled "Work'n Progress: Philadelphia's Monument to American Labor."