May Day: Labor’s International Holiday Was Made In Chicago

Filed under: Features,Labor,Union Organizing,Unions |

The first day of May commemorates  commemorates International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, and is a national holiday in more than 80 countries and observed unofficially in numerous other nations.

May Day -- This 1886 engraving inaccurately shows the strike, explosion and rioting happening simultaneously

This 1886 engraving inaccurately shows the strike, explosion and rioting happening simultaneously

The day is of special significance to international labor and left-wing movements, but the holiday has it roots in a violent massacre that took place in Chicago during a strike to establish the eight-hour working day.

The Haymarket Square riot and massacre took place 1 May 1886 when Chicago police fired on workers after an unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they dispersed a public meeting during a strike for the eighth-our work day.

Several demonstrators killed as were and several police officers, mostly from friendly fire.

In 1889, the first congress of the Second International, meeting in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution and the Exposition Universelle, called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago massacre. May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International’s second congress in 1891.

Subsequently, the May Day riots of 1894 occurred.

In 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on “all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”

The congress made it “mandatory upon the proletarian organizations of all countries to stop work on May 1, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers.”

In many countries, the working classes sought to make May Day an official holiday, and their efforts largely succeeded.

May Day Today

May Day is often a focal point for demonstrations by socialist, communist and anarchist groups.

May Day has been an important official holiday in Communist nations such as the United State’s largest trading partner, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba and the former Soviet Union.

In the United States and Canada, however, the official Labor Day holiday for workers is in September.

The September date for Labor Day in U.S. was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, who organized the first May Day parade in New York City.

After the Haymarket Square riot, President Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could incite more riots. Thus he moved in 1887 to support the Labor Day that the Knights of Labor supported.

The Catholic Church dedicated May 1 to “Saint Joseph The Worker” in 1955. The Catholic Church considers Saint Joseph the patron saint of (among others) workers, craftsmen, and “people fighting communism.”

Right-wing governments have historically tried to silence the message of International Workers’ Day. Fascist governments in Portugal, Italy, Germany and Spain have in the past abolished the holiday. The UK Conservative party is currently attempting to end the UK’s annual May Day holiday.

List your business in the premium web directory for free This website is listed under Human Resources Directory