May Day, Labor Day – Know The History

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New Delhi: Every year, on the first day of the month of May, i.e., May 1, ‘International Labour Day’ is celebrated to celebrate labourers and the working classes. The day is dedicated to the labourers and workers.

Labour Day, happens to be a public holiday in many countries, and is also celebrated as May Day in many European countries. In India, Labour Day is known by the name Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas or Kamgar Din.

It all began with the rise in industrialization, when the industrialists exploited the labour class and they had to work for up to 15 hours a day.

The origin of May Day is indissolubly bound up with the struggle for the shorter workday – a demand of major political significance for the working class. This struggle is manifest almost from the beginning of the factory system in the United States.

Although the demand for higher wages appears to be the most prevalent cause for the early strikes in this country, the question of shorter hours and the right to organize were always kept in the foreground when workers formulated their demands against the bosses and the government. As exploitation was becoming intensified and workers were feeling more and more the strain of inhumanly long working hours, the demand for an appreciable reduction of hours became more pronounced.

Already at the opening of the 19th century workers in the United States made known their grievances against working from “sunrise to sunset,” the then prevailing workday. Fourteen, sixteen and even eighteen hours a day were not uncommon. During the conspiracy trial against the leaders of striking cordwainers in 1806, it was brought out that workers were employed as long as nineteen and twenty hours a day.

The twenties and thirties are replete with strikes for reduction of hours of work and definite demands for a 10-hour day were put forward in many industrial centers. The organization of what is considered as the first trade union in the world, the Mechanics’ Union of Philadelphia, preceding by two years the one formed by workers in England, can be definitely ascribed to a strike of building trade workers in Philadelphia in 1827 for the 10-hour day. During the bakers’ strike in New York in 1834 the Workingmen’s Advocate reported that “journeymen employed in the loaf bread business have for years been suffering worse than Egyptian bondage. They have had to labor on an average of eighteen to twenty hours out of the twenty-four.”

Finally, they took the courage to stand united and raise their voice and demanded paid leaves, proper wages and breaks for the workforce. The day has different story for different countries, however, the main reason behind it remains the same and that is unfair treatment of the labour class.

The first Labour day or May Day was celebrated in India in the year 1923. It was the Labour Kisan Party who had organised the May Day celebrations in Chennai (then Madras). One of these was organised at Triplicane Beach and the other one was arranged at the beach opposite Madras High Court.

Google is celebrating ‘International Labour Day’ with its purple coloured doodle, which includes rubber gloves, stethoscope, safety helmets, batteries, nuts and bolts, painting roll-ons, wires, glasses to light torches.

Labour Day in the United States is an annual holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers. It has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

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