First day of May, popularly known as “Labor Day” or “International Workers day” could be just a public holiday for so many of us but in real this day has a story of struggle and suffering behind it.
History of Labors’ Day
The history of Labors day takes us back to the Long depression period of 1870s. Long depression was a worldwide price and economic decline period (1873-1896), and in US it was from 1873-1879 after which the United States experienced the rapid industrial expansion. At that time the center of trade was industries was Chicago and tens of thousands of German and Bohemian immigrants were working there on $1.50 per day. For years, the working class was forced to work more than their normal capacity, they were forced to work for 16 hours a day that is beyond the human potential.
The conditions during their work were unsafe and the workers were struggling for 8 hours work per day for a long time. Then, in October 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada decided that May 1, 1886 would mark the first day for 8 hours work day. On that day (May 1, 1886) there was a general strike and workers were demanding to cut down the hectic 16 hours working day. The number of people in strike was impressive, between 3 lac and half million American people stood up for their rights and cities seem to be over-flooded by the protestants.
The center of struggle and strike was Chicago where around 40,000 people were protesting for their rights. The strike had a very big plus point that it was wisely coordinated by organizers and it was non-violent till the 3rd of May and their slogan was “Eight-hour day with no cut in pay”.
Beginning of Confrontation
But on the 4th of May, a confrontation happened between People and police as the protesting people tried to cross the strikebreakers. The police officers opened fire in reaction and two people were killed. The crowd got furious and police tried to disperse the people at Chicago’s Haymarket Square, a bomb was thrown on them by an unknown person and seven people got died eventually. This Haymarket incident is considered significant as origin of International day for workers as it galvanized the movement for 8 hours day work. Then in 1889, May 1 was decided as International Worker’s day by International Organization for workers and socialists.
The struggle of people in America was continued till 1916 when 8 hours work day was recognized and it was made a law, after a series of strikes, protests and actions. From then to till now, the day is symbolic commemoration with Haymarket Affair and the labors all around the world.
Public Holiday Across the World
The day has public holiday and is celebrated each across the globe by thousands of people who walk in streets and organize awareness activities to show solidarity with the labors and workers. That’s really good that people think about workers and show solidarity with them. But the thing is, we need to get deep into the lives of workers and labours that how they pass their difficult 24 hours of working. It is very easy to sit in air conditioned room and speak for the working people and it is also very easy to arrange a walk for one day only. But do we think about the real difficulties of labors’ life? Did we experience once that how a person works in extreme summer under the sky only?
Make a Difference
I remember last year I was in my hometown Kashmir and I ploughed in field where I grew many crops. That experience was very tiresome because it was summer, the work made me physically tired and my muscles were badly aching. At that time I realized that how difficult the job is, which the farmers and labors pay for us. They work for us regardless of the weather and their health. A labor has to work regardless of his health even because if he will be off, he will not get the wages.
It is a matter of feeling that a bite of bread you eat, has a tiresome working hours of a labor behind it. A farmer works for months and crop is prepared for us, a labor works for months to put his part in constructing a building, a worker takes a heavy load on his back to bring things for us, in fact most of the luxuries we enjoy are due to the hard times suffered by the labors.
For most of us the Labor day is a picnic day or Barbecue day or rest day as it is a public holiday, but ask from a labor that is that day is even off for him or not? A labor working on road, on a construction task, or a labor who carries weight from one place to another, does not know the meaning of an off day, picnic day and Barbecue day. He just knows that he has to work hard day and night to earn the bread for his family.
The real essence
The real essence of labors day is that we know about the life of labors and their sufferings. We should take them as humans like ourselves, because we don’t often regard them that they would get tired on ill. We should take care of their health, their rest, their food and top of all, their wages should be given properly and timely. It is the saying of my beloved Prophet that, “Give the worker his wages before his sweat dries.” The wages are the rights of working people and it is not a charity.
We should be hastened to pay their wages as soon as the work get finished. Lets’ pledge this year that from now, we will be one of those people who make ease for others, who take care of others and who do justice with others. Let’s pledge that we will take care of the labors and workers who give their blood and sweat for making ease for us. On this labor’s day, “Thank you all the labors all the workers all the farmers because of whom we are enjoying the life!