Prague Twin

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

International Worker's Day

Today is International Worker's Day, or more simply, May Day. It is a holiday nearly everywhere in the world except in the United States, Canada, and South Africa. This is particularly strange since its origins are in the United States and the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago.

I've found a couple of good links on the history and significance of May Day (1, 2). Here is a good quote from the latter of the two links...

Truly, history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our radicalism. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour 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 can not be forgotten or we'll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.

Also my post from last year has some decent points.

No big protests this year? I wonder why?

Postscript: Big protests all over. Just much less coverage by the mainstream media this year.

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  • The only people working a 40 hour week are bureaucrats and big company employees. Everyone else works a lot more.

    So may day, in part, hasn't turned out to be so shiny as it used to be.

    By Anonymous romunov, at 7:05 PM  

  • Maybe in your country. I don't see anyone in our (small) company working over 40.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 7:46 PM  

  • I think the more succinct point is that even if we feel pressured to work more hours, we are free to seek employment elsewhere without being blackballed, we have OSHA regs for safety and federal minimums concerning wages, etc. Children are no longer exploited. I'd say things aren't so grim as they were back then.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 9:53 PM  

  • I didn't even know about that 1886 origin in Chicago. We definitely need to hold onto those things we take for granted: weekends, vacations, 40-hour workweeks. The Powers That Be are slowly chipping away at these, and we can't let this happen. Too many people got killed or injured to give us these benefits.

    I can see why the concept of an International Workers' Holiday hasn't caught on in the States. It clashes with that American archetype of Horatio Alger pulling himself up by his bootstraps.

    Who Hijacked Our Country

    By Blogger Tom Harper, at 3:19 AM  

  • Good post. It's strange that this country began with a radical idea and a revolution, but lately we seem to have settled into our SUVs and our couches in front of the TV and forgotten that people fought and died for workers rights and union organizing. All of that was as heroic as any battlefield patriotism, but it's not only not celebrated, the government and corporations still make it hard to organize

    By Blogger Newsguy, at 6:31 AM  

  • In the US, we are too busy and have too many gadgets to worry about pesky things like workers rights. After all the jobs are shipped off, it might wake us up.

    By Blogger Graeme, at 6:36 AM  

  • It is a holiday nearly everywhere in the world except in the United States, Canada, and South Africa. This is particularly strange since its origins are in the United States and the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago.

    Not so strange. May Day's origins are exactly why it's not celebrated in the US. Since Labor Day celebrations preceeded May Day celebrations by about 5 or 6 years, and because many municipalities thought that May Day would commorate the riots rather than the working man, there was considerable pressure to observe Labor Day instead.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:33 AM  

  • Rocky,

    I agree. We have a lot to be thankful for as well as struggles ahead. Lets be sure not to marginalize the few who dare to step outside the box.


    Most people don't. The idea that unions just make business more inefficient belies the fact that unions are the reason we have decent conditions today.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 5:31 PM  

  • Newsguy,

    Thanks. I'll probably post on this every year as a reminder to what you allude to.


    Yeah, but then, of course, as they say, "it will be too late."

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 5:32 PM  

  • Kvatch,

    I didn't know that, thanks. I did a bit of digging and found that the Labor day march started in 1882, but it didn't become officially Labor day until 1887 after the riots, for just the reason you mentioned.

    I see the logic in it, but I think workers standing up for their rights once per year is a healthy thing.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 5:34 PM  

  • Yeah, America has become such a nightmare for so many that illegal aliens have taken over May Day celebrations and festivities to demand more of this "nightmare" for themselves.

    They're angry about the barriers that separate them from all the misery that plagues millions of American workers. They're angry that they can't jump in and share the pain. It's awful.

    By Blogger no_slappz, at 5:46 PM  

  • N_S,

    I don't think it is so bad. That is the point of the post. We celebrate the progress we have made. That doesn't mean we are finished.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 6:05 PM  

  • I miss the parades through Red Square from the 60s, 70s and early 80s when the MBTs woould roll through and then the missiles. Very cool. I think part of the fall of the USSR was when they switched from those to the wimpy, coreographed, painful productions the peace parades were in the late 80s. What do the do now, drink heavily?

    By Blogger Roger Fraley, at 3:26 AM  

  • I suppose drinking heavily would be in order. Did you see what happened the last time people tried to protest? Ouch.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 7:52 AM  

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