Unity, Freedom and Worker’s Rights – Reflections on the Meaning of May Day

For most of us, shutting down our laptops or clocking out at the end of an eight-hour shift is the norm, give or take a half-hour or so for lunch. And as tiring as a day of work can be, it’s easy to forget that over a century ago, people died to afford us the right to an eight-hour workday.

The May Day holiday, or International Worker’s Day, was actually created out of the labor movement in the late 19th century in the US, when the Industrial Revolution was at its height. Because of the long hours, unsafe and unsanitary working conditions at mills and factories, as well as poor treatment by management, labor unions organized and workers began holding strikes and protest rallies. 

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The idea of a labor holiday caught on as more and more people sought a peaceful way to protest for better working conditions and for eight-hour workdays. The holiday evolved over time, and is now celebrated worldwide as a show of solidarity for anyone with class consciousness.

So as you relax on your day off, don’t forget to take a moment to reflect on the hardworking men and women from the late 1800s and their efforts to create the much-improved working conditions we now enjoy.

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