Happy International Working Day!
Most countries celebrate International Workers’ Day (also known as Labour Day), normally on the first day of May.
The day is chosen to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago, when workers went on strike for an eight-hour workday.The police were trying to disperse a public assembly, when an unidentified person threw a bomb at the police. The police responded by firing on the workers, killing four demonstrators.
The matter is that in the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to have a 8-hour working day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hours a day in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were quite ordinary things at many work places. In the 1860′s, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn’t until the late 1880′s that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class, The Industrial Workers of the World reports.
The 1904 International Socialist Conference in Amsterdam, the Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on “all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”
Over one hundred years have passed since that first May Day. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour working day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted – people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people cannot be forgotten or we’ll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. Happy International Working Day!!!