Here’s a re-print of a blog entry I wrote this time last year, back when I was still blogging elsewhere:
May Day is nearly upon us again. A friend’s blog caught my eye this afternoon– reminding me again that most people aren’t aware of the significance of the day. May 1st is “International Workers Day,” a holiday recognized in most every country world-wide, with the exception of ours, Canada, and South Africa.
Anyhow… if you HAVE a job, and you work your eight hours and go home, you can thank the good folks of the International Working People’s Association, the Knights of Labor, and hundreds of thousands of union members who demanded this right back in 1886. It sure beats forced overtime, oft-fatal conditions, and child labor. I’m not sure if I can adequately convey the courage it took for these people to demand what we now take for granted– two days later, on the 3rd, police killed four strikers; and a bomb was actually detonated on the 4th (remember the Haymarket Riots from history class?) which killed one police officer, and injured some 70 other people. In a move that reminds me of the heavy-handed “let’s look and see” tactics of today’s government under Bush, suspected anarchists, strikers, and labor union members had their homes searched and were arrested without charge. Despite nearly non-existant evidence, four persons were still hanged.
Although the idea of an 8-hour workday wasn’t new, it still took until 1938’s “Fair Labor Standards Act” made it official. Although officially May 1st is now “Law Day” (created as the most forgettable non-holiday ever to help us forget).. we DO have Labor Day, on the first Monday in September. However, this is better-known as the day they trot out Jerry Lewis, and ask everyone to put away white shoes.
I hope that you all recognize that, for as far as we have come, there is still a lot to do. Child labor, unsafe working conditions, slavery, poverty, homelessness, starvation, illiteracy, and oppression all thrive throughout the world– it is all of our burden to help fix these problems everywhere they remain.