Labor Day/ International Workers Day

Labor Day/ International Workers Day

Labor day, also referred to as International Workers Day, is a holiday that is celebrated annually around the world to commemorate the accomplishments of workers. Most countries celebrate this holiday on the 1st of May every year. This date is similar to the classical European holiday, May Day (History). However, particular countries such as the United States of America and Canada commemorate this holiday during the first Monday of every September. This period is regarded as the unofficial summer end in the U.S. Besides; most countries consider Labor day as a public holiday while the United States regards it as being a federal holiday. In the United States, this holiday is not just celebrated to mark the accomplishment of workers in specifically contributing to the prosperity, laws, and strength of the country, but also to honor the American Labor Movement (Al Jazeera; History).

The origins of this holiday can be traced back to the late 19th century. This period was marked by the growth of labor movements and trade unions in the United States. The Knights of Labor and the Central Labor Union proposed that workers needed to work for only eight hours, rest for eight hours and be allowed eight hours for recreational activities. Such movements were as a result of workers being forced to a 16-hour work schedule each day and the unsafe working conditions they experienced. Therefore, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of Canada and the United States decided in October 1884, that the eight-hour workday would commence officially on the 1st of May, 1886 (Al Jazeera). On that day, supporters of the labor movements took to the streets for peaceful demonstrations, which later turned violent. There was a clash between the police and the protestors which left many individuals injured and some killed. This incident is now referred to as the Haymarket Affair (Rondinone, p.397).

This occurrence of the Haymarket Affair in 1886 can be attributed as the key reason as a to why the United States celebrates its Labor day on a different day other than on May 1st. Labor unions could not reach an agreement as to when workers were to be celebrated. Most individuals supported the May 1st date. This date, however, posed a challenge since it was assumed that it would commemorate the 1886 Haymarket Affair. According to Kohn, there were concerns that having the holiday on 1st of May would inspire protests such as the Haymarket one and would reinforce the anarchist and socialist movements, which played a key role in Haymarket Affair during the International Workers’ Day. Therefore, it was suggested that Labor day is held in September. The year 1887 marked the first time Labor Day was celebrated in the U.S, which exclusively occurred in Oregon. Later, in 1894, the holiday was an official federal holiday that was celebrated by thirty states in the United States (History).

In conclusion, May 1st is celebrated as an international workers day by most countries around the world, including the United States. Nevertheless, the official celebration of workers (Labor Day or Día del Trabajador) in the United States is commemorated during the first Monday of September.


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