Dept. of May Day

Monday, 1 May 2017 10:16 pm
kaffyr: (Joe Hill)
[personal profile] kaffyr
The First of May

"The bosses gave us Labor Day. May Day we took for ourselves."  

I took this from a friend's Twitter feed, because it's certainly the truth in the U.S., where Labor Day, in September, is celebrated, and not International Workers' Day, on  May 1. And by "celebrated" I mean "The working class/political origins of Labor Day and May Day? La-la-la I can't hear you!"

(The reasons for Canada and other countries going with the fall holiday may differ, so I'm sticking just with what might be reasons in this country.)

There's some interesting suggestions out there about why the United States chose September and not May. Some people believe that Grover Cleveland signed the September date into law to help turn peoples' attention away from the troops he sent in to kill workers in Chicago during the Pullman strikes (sorry for the Huffpost link - not a fan of aggregation sites, me - but it's late and I'm too lazy to seek better links. I hope you'll forgive me), although that doesn't completely address the choice of date. Other sources say that the country's determined rejection of May 1 stemmed from general American government/capital mistrust of connecting American labor movements with international labor movements that had already coalesced around that date.

It seems fairly clear to me that whatever the specific source of the American disconnect from International Workers' Day, the general establishment dislike of an empowered working class had a great deal to do with the blindness to May 1 and the watering down of the September Labor Day from a celebration of workers to a picnic-oriented long weekend.

This year, though, more people in America paid attention to May 1. I hope the trend, if not the reasons for it, continue.


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