|Overview of the Labor Unrest Map|
Workers throughout Chicago and its suburbs took part in the nationwide movement for an eight-hour day with strikes, meetings, and parades in early to mid-1886. Reflecting the city's economic and social geography, labor activity was concentrated in industrial areas along the Chicago River and in nearby working-class neighborhoods. Tens of thousands went on strike, and many strikers marched from workplace to workplace, displaying solidarity and summoning fellow workers to join them. On two separate days, thousands of railroad freight handlers marched for miles from one terminal to another. But worker processions were more often neighborhood affairs, centered on local employment concentrations and sometimes displaying ethnic clustering. To avoid strikes, many employers agreed to worker demands. Though most labor activity was peaceful, violent confrontations with the police also occurred.
A clash on May 3rd between workers and police near the McCormick Reapers Works (to the left of the maps, near Blue Island and Western) led to the call for a protest meeting at the Randolph Street Haymarket. The Haymarket (upper center, at Randolph between Halsted and Desplaines) was the starting point for two parades and the scene of a May 4th protest meeting which ended in violence. In the aftermath, the eight-hour movement came to a resounding halt for the time being.