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Celebrating Workers’ Rights: May Day Across the Globe

Anetha Sivananthan

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

In spite of being a celebrated holiday across 66 different countries and being birthed in the United States, May Day, otherwise known as Labor Day globally, is not a nationally recognized holiday in the USA.

The origins of May Day stem from the tumultuous working conditions occurring in the latter part of the 19th century, where the working class remained embroiled and locked in unsanitary and dangerous work environments, alongside long hours of up to 16 hours a day. The presence of these working conditions inspired the beginnings of socialism, which later blossomed entirely into various socialist organisations calling for the end of corporate hierarchies and the insurgence of worker-controlled establishments.

Founded by Samuel Gompers in 1886, The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, referred to today as the American Federation of Labor declared, “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The proclamation was succeeded by protests and strikes.

In addition to its history of worker’s rights, May Day celebrates the start of spring with its classic dancing around the maypoles and across certain pagan traditions, May Day commemorates fertility, rebirth and posterity.

May Day Across The Globe

In South Carolina, teachers in their hundreds of thousands walked out of academic institutions to call for the complete funding of public schools.

Outside of the USA, in Jakarta, Indonesia, journalists wore masks as they protested closeby to a national monument. Over 500, 000 workers were mobilized in the peaceful rally; 50, 000 of whom came from the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta alone.

The leader of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Unions (KSPI) asserted the May Day rally evocated the call for the eradication of cheap labour by corporate organisations and the confirmation of employee healthcare and pension. The other two demands also issued in a written statement called for cuts to essential foods and electricity tariffs.

Alternatively, May Day in Sri Lanka focused on celebrating the achievements of members of the Socialist Equality Party of Sri Lanka, who repudiated a government security clampdown to hold a public rally in the capital, Colombo in remembrance of International Workers’ Day.

Similarly, in Britain communities rejoiced partaking in the celebration of Spring and maypole dancing.

See also: Seven Ways To Give Back This Holiday Season

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