May Day Celebration to Show Essential Worker Portraits and Worker Series

4th annual May Day labor rally April 27 at Duluth’s Labor Temple: History & Art

Recent years have seen a groundswell of labor activism and advances in the Twin Ports region, Minnesota, and beyond. Tapping the riches of labor history, engaging in creative expression to touch hearts and minds through the everyday realities of working people, and building broad empowered coalitions have all contributed to the recent advances in organized labor.

This year’s rally, with the theme of “Unearthing our History and Forging Our Future,” has endorsements from approximately 20 regional and statewide labor organizations, double last year’s support. Noted labor historian Peter Rachleff, an emeritus professor at Macalester College, will provide the keynote address.

Rachleff will tap his Duluth experiences and research to talk about past critical regional coalition building efforts that offer models, inspiration, and wisdom for forging labor’s future.

Rachleff was deeply involved in the mid-1980s Hormel strike and the mid-2000s Northwest Airlines mechanics strike, writing a book about the first struggle. An engaging storyteller, Rachleff has also researched how marginalized and oppressed groups have participated in and led the way in the labor movement. With his partner, Beth Cleary, Rachleff co-founded the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul in 2013, which is a treasure trove of Minnesota labor history. You can learn more about this project at

A new aspect of the rally this year will be a slide show art exhibit by Carolyn Olson, a narrative artist living in Duluth. Olson’s work will be projected throughout the gathering, focusing on essential workers and full-time workers who do not make a living wage. Many of these workplace realities have fed and are feeding into the recent groundswell of labor activism. In the midst of music, food, and rousing speeches, Olson’s art will graphically illustrate how struggle and dignity intertwine through labor, solidarity, and community building.

A retired K-12 art teacher, Olson’s style of gestural line, bold color, and full compositions reflect on our everyday life stories. Olson’s series of narrative portraits of essential workers during the COVID pandemic was inspired by family members. Olson visually retells the stories of essential workers who were asked to work unvaccinated, with low wages, a lack of affordable housing, and not being able to afford needed health care. Olson’s work can be seen at Lizzard’s Art Gallery in Duluth and online at