May Day | Sunday Observer

May Day

2 May, 2021
Protests carried out by Labour unions
Protests carried out by Labour unions

May 1 is celebrated as the International Labour Day all over the world. The holiday may also be known as International Workers' Day or May Day and is marked with a public holiday in over 80 countries.

This is a day that marks the importance of labour in this world and assures the dignity of work for every profession. The day recognises the labourer’s contribution and impresses upon us the need to respect and honour them. Labour Day is very important for us to understand the true worth of the workers.


History of Labour Day

The first May Day celebrations focused on workers, took place on May 1 1890 after its procla-mation by the First International Congress of Socialist Parties in Europe on July 14, 1889 in Paris, France, to dedicate the first of May 1 every year as the ‘Workers' Day of International Unity and Solidarity.’

The date was chosen due to events on the other side of the Atlantic. In 1884, the American Federation of Organised Trades and Labor Unions demanded an eight-hour workday, to come in to effect as of May first 1886. This resulted in the general strike and the Haymarket (in Chicago) Riot of 1886, but eventually also in the official sanction of the eight-hour workday.

These demands came about due to the fact that during that time, people of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of employment, labour unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organising strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.

May 1 is celebrated as May Day in most countries the world. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the bank holiday isn’t fixed on May 1 but instead is observed on the first Monday of May.

In the 20th century, the holiday received the official endorsement of the Soviet Union, and it is also celebrated as the Day of the International Solidarity of Workers, especially in some Communist states.

Celebrations in communist countries during the Cold War era often consisted of large military parades with the latest weaponry being exhibited as well as shows of common people in support of the government.

- Methlini Hewage