The Story Behind May Day Becoming Holiday For Workers

Often touted as a Labour Day or International Worker’s day, 1st May is celebrated worldwide. It’s basically a celebration of the labourers and the working classes, which was initially brought into the limelight through various international labour movement, socialists, anarchists and communist. It’s also observed as an ancient European spring holiday.

However, to refer back to the story of the May Day being a holiday roots from the time, when the date was chosen for International Workers’ Day by the Second International in order to commemorate the Haymarket affair, took place in Chicago on 4 May 1886. This day was specially meant for the labour union movement, which was designed for the purpose of making working hours into eight-hour a day. This is how the labourers of the time moved with the demands of eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

May Day is traditionally observed as European spring celebration, but in due course it’s elevated to the status of a national public holiday in many countries, though in some of those countries it is celebrated specifically as “Labour Day” or “International Workers’ Day”. However, the date differs in various countries depending on their respective significances. For example, in the United States, the labour day is celebrated on the first Monday of September.

In the late nineteenth century, the working class waged a constant struggle for the demand of 8-hour work day. Back those days, working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in the most unsafe conditions. Death and injury could inflict their life any time. In short, these were so commonplace that people had to live an unpredictable existence. During that time, a significant group of labour or the workers found inspiration from the literatures like Jack London’s The Iron Heel, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and many others. Stimulated by the literary pieces of the time, the working people, at the wake of 1860 agitated against the capitalist employers of the time to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn’t until the late 1880’s, that their demands were met out. In fact, before that time, the labours were not organized enough to garner strength for declaring the 8-hour workday.

At this time, socialism gained ground in most of the European countries, which was instantly accepted by the working class as a new and attractive idea. The equal distribution of the goods and services seem to have a positive impact on the working class. Workers and the labourers have found that the Capitalism was only intended for the benefits of the employers, which was only trading workers’ lives for profit. Socialism came up as a viable option because it comes with the guarantee of protection of the lie and interest of the workers.

Advocating the socialist approach towards working hours, a variety of socialist organizations grew up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In due course many socialist leaders gained a prestigious position in the politics. In the year 1884, at the Chicago National Convention, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labour Union, declared that “eight hours should be the working hours of an average labour, with an effect from May 1, 1886.”

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