A Little Piece of Worker’s History

By: Casey Anderson

Many students hear the phrase “Happy May Day” and it triggers nothing more in their minds then “one more month and I’ll be free,” meaning summer is almost here.  May Day however, also called Labor Day, Loyalty Day, or International Worker’s Day, is a mark of the strength and spirit of trade and labor organizations and is celebrated in more than 80 countries.

The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions brought forth the proposal for a Labor Day celebration and worker’s rights exhibition in April of 1886.  May 1st of that year was to be the first demonstration with strikes and marches, but American business owners refused to comply and police were called to break up the demonstration.  Later named the Haymarket Massacre, it began while a peaceful rally was taking place in support of workers striking for an eight-hour day.  An unknown individual threw a bomb at police as they were acting to disperse the public meeting.  The police opened fire and at least 12 individuals were killed, with many others wounded.  For many years, May Day has commemorated the individuals who lost their lives at this horrifying event.

Although the majority of the world still celebrates International Worker’s Day on May 1st, President Cleveland moved the day to September because he feared it would be associated with the craziness of the anarchists who were leading many of the strikes.  Oregon was actually the first state to make it a holiday in 1887.  Go Oregon!

The history of the significant holidays and important days in the history of the American workforce are common small-talk topics at holiday parties, networking events, and during office tours when you begin your new job.  It is a good idea to research these events so you can impress your future employees and maybe even discover some additional reasons to celebrate.