Political · Wisconsin · Workplace Violence

Several shot during protests at iron mill (1886)

May 5, 1886
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Laborers demanding an eight-hour workday join in protest at the Milwaukee Iron Company rolling mill

Four days earlier, approximately 12,000 laborers joined in protest at the rolling mill; the total in attendance swelled a few thousand more by the climax of the protest, including children. The goal of the protest was to reduce the number of hours in a workday, which were at the time 10-hour shifts (some sources claimed the workdays were as long as 14 hours), 6 days a week. The Guardsmen were given orders by the Governor to shoot to kill anyone who attempted to enter the facility. Several were killed, including a 13-year-old boy curious about the crowd and a retired worker getting water, neither of whom were a part of the strike.

The exact number of killed or injured victims was seemingly a debate between newspapers at the time: some reported seven died at the scene, others stated 5 died immediately while 3 others were possibly fatally wounded, another claimed 6 died instantly while 8 were mortally wounded. Depending on which side the journalists reporting the events were, the events became known as the Bay View Massacre, the Bay View Tragedy, or the Bay View Riot.

Public sympathy was behind the workers and in the following election those who ordered the shooting of the strikers and those who supported the decision were voted out of office.

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