May 1 Labor Day | International Labor day

What is International Workers’ Day?

International Worker Day

Find out the history of May Day and what kind of protests and celebrations can be expected this year

Every year on May 1, people over the globe take to the streets to celebrate International Workers’ Day or May Day. 

In dozens of countries, May Day is an official holiday, and for labor rights campaigners, it is particularly important.

The day memorializes past labor fights against a host of workers’ rights violations, including lengthy workdays and weeks, poor conditions, and child labor

Why is International Workers’ Day on May 1?

Happy International Labor Day
Happy International Labor Day

At the end of the 19th century, communists, socialists, and trade unionists decided May 1 to become International Workers’ Day.

The date was symbolic, remembering the Haymarket incident, which took place in Chicago, in the united states in 1886.

For years, the US working class – frequently compelled to work up to 16 hours a day in unsafe situations – had been struggling for an eight-hour workday.

Then, in October 1884, the Federation of Associated Trades and Labour Unions of the United States and Canada concluded that May 1, 1886, would mark the first day that an eight-hour workday would go into outcome.

When that day came, between 300,000 and 500,000 US workers went on strike in cities and towns over the country, according to various historians’ estimations. Chicago, which was the nucleus of the fight, saw an estimated 40,000 people protest and strike. 

Till May 3, the strike was well-coordinated and mostly peaceful.

But as the end of the workday overtook, striking workers in Chicago attempted to face strikebreakers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. Large police contingents were protecting the strikebreakers, and officers opened fire on the striking workers, shooting at least two.

As the police attempted to scatter the protesters on May 4 in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, a bomb was thrown at them, killing seven officers and at least four civilians.

Police afterward rounded up and arrested eight revolutionaries, all of whom were convicted of conspiracy. A court sentenced seven to death and one to 15 years imprisoning. Four were executed, one committed suicide rather than face the halters and two had their sentences transformed to life in prison.

Those who died are regarded by many on the left, including both socialists and revolutionaries, as the “Haymarket Martyrs”. 

In 1889, the international organization for workers and socialists announced that May 1 would, from then on, be International Workers’ Day. The Haymarket affair galvanized the broader labor movement.
In the US, although the eight-hour workday wasn’t recognized until it was turned into law in 1916, following years of strikes, protests, and actions in favor of it.

What is the holiday’s history after 1916? 

After the eight-hour day was begun in the US in 1916, it was validated by the Communist International, an international alliance of socialist and communist parties, and by communist and socialist parties in different nations.

In that identical year, as World War I continued, partial strikes and collisions with police in the US and several European countries were serviced by huge anti-war sentiment as much as they were driven by the fight for labor benefits.

In 1917, as the US announced its association in the war, socialists and other radicals demonstrated against the murder. 

Marxist leaders over the globe – among them Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, who is most widely known as Lenin – considered the war to be an example of industrialist, imperialist countries pitting members of an international working class against one another. They argued that workers should consolidate and wage a radical war against the ruling classes in their own countries.

Four days after the revolution that plunged Tsarist rule in Russia, the eight-hour workday was proposed by official decree.

What have been some of the most prestigious International Workers’ Day protests?

International Workers’ Day is considered with festivals, protests, strikes, and recognition around the world.

While the size and strength of ceremonies have ebbed and flowed over the years, numerous International Workers’ Day commemorations stand out.

In the US, in 1971, as the war in Vietnam continued under the presidency of Richard Nixon, protests in Washington crossed several days and included civil rebellion against the war. 

Nixon sent in an estimated 10,000 troops, and body arrests were made, arousing allegations of civil rights violations. Police and security forces seized more than 12,000 people, although most were ultimately released without charges. 

Most recently, in 2006, a series of US-wide emigration reform steps continued on May 1, when organizers called for a strike they named a “day without immigrants.” Protests had already drawn the assistance of between 350,000 and 500,000 people in cities across the US.

In 2016, massive May Day protests and marches were held in countries over the world. In the Turkish city of Istanbul, protesters fought with police while attempting to reach the city’s iconic Taksim Square. At least one protester was shot and dozens jailed.

In Moscow, tens of thousands of Russians walked in a pro-Kremlin rally to celebrate the holiday, while left-wing groups held separate events in several Russian cities. 

In Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, labor unions took to the streets with a march to call on the government to decrease working man-hours and raise wages.

Thousands of people in the German towns of Berlin and Hamburg competed in public protests. Rallies against the far-right Choice for Germany party were held in various German cities. 



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