May 1st, 2017
“May Day is the day that is dedicated to the poor working class people who had to go through a lot of struggles in order to obtain a few of the luxuries modern day workers take for granted.”
May 1st is not only the first day of May but it’s also international worker’s day (also known as May Day)! What exactly is May Day?
May Day is the day that is dedicated to the poor working class people who had to go through a lot of struggles in order to obtain a few of the luxuries modern day workers take for granted.
Though celebrating this day may not seem important to some, the rich history behind this celebration should be remembered and modern day workers must acknowledge the people who fought (and died) for the basic necessities for work that we have now.
the rich history behind this celebration should be remembered and modern day workers must acknowledge the people who fought (and died) for the basic necessities for work that we have now.
Before we had eight-hour workdays and weekends, workers had to work at least 12 hours, 7 days a week, with no breaks at all. They never had time for their families and were always burned out, not to mention they had to work in horrifying working conditions for very little pay. Children were also not excluded from working. In fact, many children (as young as 4 years old) were expected to work and were not protected from these horrifying conditions.
In factories (where most people, particularly women and children worked), especially, conditions were so rough that workers were prone to diseases, harmful health conditions and even deaths.
Bosses would also tie workers to their stations so they wouldn’t be able to escape and in some gruesome cases, they even nailed children’s ears to tables. Because people had to deal with machinery, they could easily have their skin ripped off or lose their fingers in the machines.
Mary Richards was one of the workers who appallingly died in one of the machines as a young girl who barely reached the age of ten.
“It happened one evening, when her apron was caught by the shaft. In an instant the poor girl was drawn by an irresistible force and dashed on the floor. She uttered the most heart-rending shrieks! Blincoe ran towards her, an agonized and helpless beholder of a scene of horror. He saw her whirled round and round with the shaft – he heard the bones of her arms, legs, thighs, etc. successively snap asunder, crushed, seemingly, to atoms, as the machinery whirled her round, and drew tighter and tighter her body within the works, her blood was scattered over the frame and streamed upon the floor, her head appeared dashed to pieces – at last, her mangled body was jammed in so fast, between the shafts and the floor, that the water being low and the wheels off the gear, it stopped the main shaft. When she was extricated, every bone was found broken – her head dreadfully crushed. She was carried off quite lifeless.”
Mary Richards’ story is one out of many that are not even documented for us to read. Think about how much we take working conditions for granted.
Because workers had to face so many dangerous conditions for little pay and long working days, workers in the United States went on a strike to demand an eight-hour workday on the first of May 1886. The strike lasted for several days and each of them were peaceful protests.
However, violence dispersed on the the May 4th rally. A bomb was thrown into a crowd of 1,500-3,000 protesters and 200 policemen. In addition to that, policemen shot at protesters. More than a dozen people lost their lives that day while 100 were injured.
This incident is known as the Haymarket Affair, and as a result of the Haymarket Affair, May 1st became dedicated as the day workers around the world are celebrated.
Often, this day would be filled with protests and rallies around the world in which workers unite in solidarity to demand better pay, better working conditions and more.
We may have won the weekends and won an eight-hour workday but the fight did not end 131 years ago.
Workers are still not paid a living wage across the nation.
Workers are still harassed and treated unfairly.
This is why we need to celebrate May Day in its entirety and unite with other working class people in protests or rallies that take place in our states.