History

May 1 is the International Workers´ Day, which is also known as Workers´ Day, May Day or Labour Day. On May 1, 1886, industrial workers in the U.S. organized a strike asking for 8-hour work day. After 4 days’ conflict between protesters and police, eventually a bomb in Chicago explored and caused deaths. This is called the Haymarket Massacre and marked working class’s revolt against capitalism and hierarchy.

Without them, we would probably not have 8-hour work day nor weekends. The socialist, anarchist, communist and democratic all played a role in the development and legal establishment of International Workers´ Day. Now the political factors of International Workers´ Day are much lesser and it’s celebrated worldwide.

Interestingly, despite of its origin, May Day is not treated so important in this U.S. as in most of the other countries. Instead of this date, Americans celebrate their Labour Day in the early September. It´s said that separating the Labour Day with May 1 is to avoid it from becoming a memorial to the Haymarket bombing. (See Fortune)

 

How do we celebrate the Worker’s Day?

  • Work hard?

As the proverb says, labour is honourable and glorious. Dedication, hard work and self-discipline are good characters at work. Nonetheless, we should always bear in mind protecting our own rights while earning.

 

  • Play hard?

As it is labour’s day, many people can leave their workplace and take this chance to treat themselves well. The May Day has become a public holiday in many places around the world. So in this occasion it is more spent as festival in the spring time for relaxing and enjoying.

 

  • Fight hard?

Actually, the International Workers’ Day is supposed to commemorate the history that workers fought bravely for their rights and justice. The best way to memorize it should be speaking out and taking actions reasonably and respectfully. In many countries, people keep the traditions of May Day March. They communicate with governments and employers through demonstration, local meetings, rallies, protesting working conditions and etc. Some are organized by government or trade union, and some are spontaneous.

 

  • International associations which fight for workers´ rights

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is performing as the global voice of the world’s working people. With close relation to UN specialised agencies, it’s mission is to promote and defend workers´ rights and interests. Reports are released by ITUC every year, concluding the violation of worker’s right worldwide. It’s annual Global Rights Index shows the ranking of countries according to each country’s guarantee and protection to workers´ rights.

International Labour Organization (ILO) is claimed to be the only tripartite U.N. agency, gathering governments, employers and workers. It focuses on advancing social justice and promoting decent work, for which it has set labour standards from various aspects and developed different policies.

International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF). With a long history since 1986 and based in the U.S., ILRF has been fighting for workers´ rights in international trade. It is specialised in providing solutions to the issues and problems of worker rights and labour standards.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international independent organization also based in the U.S.. Its main mission is to defend human rights worldwide. On one hand, it is most recognized by its action of exploring social problems and facts, speaking out for the victims and pressuring the authority on respecting equality. On the other hand, it is criticised as not being political neutral and lacking of scientific investigation and analysis. Some says it’s being selective in who they criticise and playing with details; some thinks it “focuses on political and civil rights while ignoring social and economic rights” and as a result furthers capitalism (See Critical Legal Thinking)

 

It’s a good idea to maintain people’s rights through formal channels. However, the different opinions have enlightened us to always embrace critical thinking to avoid bias and misleading while defending our rights.

All histories of the establishments of Workers´ Day in different countries are worth knowing. The more we understand the more we treasure it.