History of International Workers’ Day

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There is much to study on the history of International Workers’ Day. However, it was clear that it was born from the struggle for the eight-hour day. ‘In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions passed a resolution stating that eight hours would constitute a legal day’s work from and after May 1, 1886. The resolution called for a general strike to achieve the goal, since legislative methods had already failed. With workers being forced to work ten, twelve, and fourteen hours a day, rank-and-file support for the eight-hour movement grew rapidly, despite the indifference and hostility of many union leaders.

By April 1886, 250,000 workers were involved in the May Day movement. ‘ ‘Working classes have existed since the development of agriculture, about ten thousand years ago. Serfs, slaves, tradespeople and others were forced to turn over the fruits of their labor to an exploiting class. But the modern working class – the class of “free labor,” whose exploitation is hidden by the wage system – is only several hundred years old. Although its exploitation is masked, it is no less brutal. Men, women and children are forced to work long hours in miserable conditions just to eke out a bare subsistence. (Andy McInerney, in Liberation & Marxism, issue no. 27, Spring 1996) ILO: a core labour standards The International Labour Organization (ILO) was created in 1919, at the end of the First World War, at the time of the Peace Conference which convened first in Paris, then at Versaillesneed for such an organization had been advocated in the nineteenth century by two industrialists, Robert Owen (1771-1853) of Wales and Daniel Legrand . The (1783-1859) of France. The ILO’s work cover humanitarian, political, as well as economic aspects in order to tackle workers’ issue in a holistic perspective.

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Workers’ Key Concern Globalisation – during the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar on 9 November 2001, hundreds of thousands of workers in 45 countries participated in 70 protest actions, as part of the Global Unions Day of Action. Demonstrators demanded globalisation that favours true justice and equality. They called for worker rights, job security, quality universal education and health care for all. They also demanded open and democratic globalisation that helps the poor and not just the rich.

On 27 February 2002, the ILO launched a ‘World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalisation,’ to be headed by the Finish and Tanzanian presidents, aiming to address the question of how to create a more social globalisation. The principal objective is to advance the debate on globalisation through factual analysis. Members are drawn from all regions of the world including top-level trade unionists and high profile members (former president from Uruguay and former Foreign Minister from Thailand).

The commission is expected to complete its deliberations and present an authoritative report to ILO in the course of 2003. Labour Day around the world Most countries celebrate Labour Day on May 1, known as May Day. In Europe the day has older significance as a rural festival which is predominantly more important than that of the Labour Day movement. The holiday has become internationalised and several countries hold multi-day celebrations including parades, shows and other patriotic and labour-oriented events. In Germany, Labour Day was established as an official holiday in 1933 after the Nazi Party, or NSDAP, rose to power. It was supposed to symbolise the new-found unity between the state and the German people. However, just one day later, on May 2, 1933, all free unions were outlawed and destroyed. But since the holiday had been celebrated by German workers for many decades before the official state endorsement, the NSDAP’s attempt to appropriate it left no long-term resentment. • In India, Labour day is a national holiday. Maharashtra (State in India), Labour Day May 1 was renamed Maharashtra Diwas. In Poland, Labour Day May 1 was renamed “State Holiday” in 1990. • In Sweden, Finland and Norway, May 1 is a national holiday celebrated through widespread demonstrations by the entire workers’ movement. • In Italy, May 1 is national holiday, demonstrations of the trade unions are widespread. Since the ’90s, the trade unions organise a massive free concert in Rome, with attendances topping a million people. • In Denmark May 1 is celebrated through widespread demonstrations by the entire workers’ movement throughout the country.

There are also out-door activities celebrating the day in many major cities. • In Israel May 1 is not officially celebrated, but each year the socialist and marxist youth movements arrange a parade in Tel aviv. • In Korea, Labour Day is a national holiday for labourers. • In Iceland, 1 May. Although it is a national holiday, few people consider this day special because the rise in the Icelandic economy that has brought prosperity for most Icelanders. • In Ireland, Labour Day (also called May Day) is celebrated on the first Monday in May, and is a public holiday

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History of International Workers’ Day. (2018, Jun 10). Retrieved from


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