Metropolitan Touring Celebrates International Worker’s Day
International Worker’s Day (Labour Day or May Day in certain countries) will be celebrated throughout most of the world this coming 1 May. The day serves as a recognition of the economic efforts and social achievements of workers involved the industrial world. The holiday remains fuelled and promoted by the international labour movement, as well as certain groups of socialists and communists.
Today, the majority of countries around the planet celebrate the day as International Worker’s Day and recognize it as a public holiday.
International Worker’s Day: A Brief History
Some may find it ironic that International Worker’s Day is a day that celebrates the history of organized labour by not doing labour.
But the history behind the day helps explain this bit of irony. One must understand that the holiday’s origins have a humanistic underpinning which gradually transformed into a fervent political one.
At the height of the industrial revolution in the late 1800’s, many laborer began growing tired of the dismal working conditions and industrial practices prevalent in most companies. Thus began the upward battle on behalf of organized labour parties, be it either with their management and/or the government.
It was not uncommon for people to work 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to make a basic living. Children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines, earning only a small fraction of the wages of adults. Work and occupational safety were practically non-existent.
As manufacturing jobs displaced agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labour unions gained in popularity and gradually became more prominent and vocal. Strikes and rallies became commonplace, as workers throughout the U.S. gathered to demand better hours and pay, as well as call out employers on the poor working conditions they were imposing. Several of these rallies became violent, the most infamous incident of which was the Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and industrial workers were killed.
It was this event, along with the Pullman Railroad strike (which crippled railroad traffic nationwide in the United States) that would eventually lead the government to break the strikes and repair ties with American workers by making Labor Day a legal holiday in the US – breaking tradition with the rest of the world, in the US this date falls on the first Monday in September.
The events in the U.S. were not isolated incidents. Around the world, labour unions were gathering to protest very similar problems with their working environments. In 1904, the International Socialist Conference in Amsterdam sought to create a day that would call on all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions (from all countries) to demonstrate and push for the establishment of the 8-hour workday, the creation of universal peace and the recognition of the demands of the proletariat.”
A Mosaic of Celebrations
May Day (as it’s known in Europe), Labour Day (as it’s known in the United States and Canada) and International Worker’s Day (as its known globally) is traditionally celebrated in the following countries as such:
May Day activities are on the first Monday of the month. May Day is not considered a holiday unless it falls on a Monday, which it does this year. Traditional May Day celebrations during this period, being more focused on the ancient celebrations of springtime, involve the crowning of a “May Queen” and dancing around a maypole. Over in London, a rally on May Day is organised by the London May Day Organising Committee (LMDOC).
United States & Canada
In Canada and the United States, Labour Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September and is considered to serve as the unofficial “end of summer.” It’s during this period that summer vacations come to an end and students return to school.
Labour Day in Australia was sparked by a march back in April of 1856 that saw stonemasons and construction workers walking all the way to Parliament house in order to demand an 8-hour workday. Their movement was a success, and this historic event is regarded as the first example of organised workers in the world achieving an 8-hour workday with no loss of pay.
In Ecuador for “Dia del Trabajo” (Labour Day), worker unions and employees from the public sector rally with vocational schools, agricultural associations, and even political ones too. The private sector occasionally joins in. Most Ecuadorians take advantage of this 3-day weekend to visit different places around the country, be it the jungle, historical sites or the Galapagos.