Category Archives: Labor Studies

Why We Celebrate May Day as a Workers’ Holiday

By Steve Brier

One of the great ironies is that workers all over the world celebrate Labor Day on May 1st, not the first Monday in September, the way we do in the U.S. Most people assume the choice of May 1st has something to do with the former Soviet Union. They don’t realize that the idea to celebrate May Day, International Workers’ Day, in fact traces its roots all the way back to Chicago in 1886. This was a period of enormous U.S. economic growth, with millions of immigrant workers from Europe, Mexico, and China pouring into the cities and countryside to work in the mills, factories, fields, and mines. Working conditions and wages were deplorable; workers sometimes toiled 12, 14 or even 16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week for meager wages.

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