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International Workers Day
May 1, 2020
International Workers Day is observed annually on 1 May. It is also known as May Day and Labour Day (in some countries). Working-class people celebrate it as a festival to mark their efforts and contributions to society. And Governments of some countries declared it as a public holiday.
It started as a commemoration of the Haymarket Affair. In the late 19th century workers were used to working more than 60 hours a 6-day week. They were subjected to illness and stress because of long working hours. And they demanded an 8-hour workday. But, it was opposed by the business elite and employers.
The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions proclaimed and demanded that the 8-hour workday would be implemented from 1 May 1986, in a convention held in October 1884, in Chicago. This organisation later became as American Federation of Labor. Following the year, the proclamation was backed by the Knights of Labour – America’s largest labour organisation.
On 1 May 1886, thousands of workers across America held rallies with the slogan “8-hour day with no cut in pay”. Protests went peaceful till 3 May, then all of a sudden a spat aroused that led to police firing that killed a few demonstrators. On 4 May, the rally was organised at Haymarket Square, to protest the killings. But soon police arrived there to disperse them and an unidentified individual threw a bomb on police officers. The violence erupted, and police started firing, which resulted in killings again.
In 1890, lakhs of people rallied in remembrance of people who were killed in Haymarket Riots in London on 1 May. Hence, May Day is celebrated to pay homage to the people who died in the riots who demanded decent working conditions and legitimate working hours.
Some countries celebrate labour day, not on the International Day of Workers. Let us see some of them.
The United States – First Monday of September
Canada – First Monday of September
New Zealand – Fourth Monday of October
Did you know?
Earlier May Day is celebrated as the Spring Festival.