May 1 is observed as May Day and is also known as International Labour Day worldwide. The day is observed as an occasion to commemorate the contributions of labourers and working class. This day has been declared a national holiday in numerous countries. It is also called Antarrashtriya Sharmik Diwas or Kamgar Din in India.
In many countries across the world, this day is observed to commemorate the labour movement which ushered in various reforms including capping the work hours at eight and paid leaves.
Why is Labour Day celebrated on May 1?
During industrialisation at the beginning of the 19th Century, the labour class was exploited in United States of America by industrialists and were made to work up to 15 hours a day. This forced the workers to raise their voice against the exploitation and they demanded paid leaves, proper wages and breaks for the workforce.
May 1 was chosen to be International Workers’ Day to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. The members of labour union carried out peaceful strike demanding working hours from fifteen to eight, proper wages and paid leaves, among others. However, the strike was met with bombings which led to many deaths. Many protesters were arrested and served faced terms of life imprisonment, death sentences. The incident is believed to have given the workers’ movement a great impetus.
By the late 19th century, a legal working time of eight-hours was declared in Chicago’s national convention by the American Federation of Labor. Following this pronouncement, many countries including India adopted the eight-hour working policy.
In India, the first Labour day or May Day was celebrated in the year 1923 by the Labour Kisan Party, which had organised the May Day celebrations in Chennai (then Madras).
On International Labour Day, labour unions and socialists come together to celebrate this day by conducting programs with an objective to improve working conditions wages and wages of the labour force.