On May 1st, International Workers' Day is celebrated. Without a doubt, it is a pleasant day for all those workers who get a well-deserved break from their working hours. However, Labor Day is much more than a mere holiday: it symbolizes the achievements and rights that workers obtained thanks to the labor movement promoted in times of the Second International. Today we want to bring you closer to the background and history that gives name and meaning to worker's day.
Talk about Labor Day is to look back, looking at those turbulent times of 1889, the date on which in the city of Paris, the socialist labor movement established this great day as a memory and homage to the Chicago Martyrs.
- May 1st, International Workers' Day
In November 1884 was held in the North American city of Chicago, the «IV Congress of the American Federation of Labor«, In which it was proposed that from May 1, 1886 employers would be forced to respect the 8-hour workday for all workers. At the same time, all workers were urged to demonstrate publicly, calling strikes of the magnitude that were necessary if this right was violated.
Two years later, this job right and achievement had so deeply penetrated American society that the President Andrew Johnson decided to cover it by promulgating the law "Ingersoll”, Which recognized the right of workers to 8 hour work day, thus abolishing the dehumanizing treatment of higher amounts of work.
However, in full production evolution, the employers were not willing to abide by the legislation and they threatened their workers with dismissal if they refused to comply with the abusive days that they promulgated. In those days, the entire economic engine of the United States resided in the large productive industries and the government, under pressure from the bosses, looked the other way.
But nevertheless, in 1886 the labor and union organizations of the United States they were already strongly organized and they mobilized before such abuse of power. Through its leaders, a general strike was called and on May 1 of that same year, the workers paralyzed the productive activity of the entire country.
Faced with such events there was a brutal repression against strikers, but these continued to manifest even more reason.
The Haymarket Incident.
After several days of clashes between the police and the protesters, on May 4, in the middle of a strike in Chicago's Haymarket Square, an anonymous hand threw a bomb at the police forces trying to break up the demonstration by force.
- Haymarket explosion illustration
On that fateful day, several policemen died and tempers grew even more heated. No one knows who perpetrated the attack, but the official bodies pointed to the main figures who orchestrated the strike that they were tried, sentenced and sentenced to death by hanging as they were considered traitors to the social order and enemies of the country.
Of course, the trial, the evidence and the sentence they were all a montage, a great farce that sought to drastically silence dissonant voices and any new strike attempt by labor and union organizations.
An act of brotherhood.
Three years after the incident, in July 1889, the Second International instituted the 'International Workers Day" for perpetuate the memory of the events of May 1886 in Chicago. This demand was undertaken by American workers and, immediately, adopted and promoted by the International Workers Association that made it a common demand of the working class at the international level (although its recognition was not immediate in all countries).
- Chicago Martyrs
Thus, the Paris Congress of the Second International agreed celebrate "Labor Day" on the first of May of each year.
Since 1890, political parties and trade unions integrated into the International have led workers' demonstrations in various countries in request of the 8-hour day and as a sign of brotherhood of the international proletariat and today, practically all countries with a democratic regime celebrate it.
The support of the Catholic Church.
In 1954, the Pope Pius XII decided to support the proletarian day by declare that day as the feast of Saint Joseph the worker. Thus, he linked the figure of Saint Joseph, earthly father of Christ and craftsman, as Employer of the Workers.
In this way, the labor movement and the defense of its rights were protected not only by democratic political regimes but by other institution of great international significance, the Catholic Church.
In short, the importance of the first of May it is vital as it represents the achievement and recognition of the rights of workers throughout the world.
Images: Public domain