International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day or Labor Day, is celebrated on the 1st day of May, ever year, around the world to honor workers and recognize their effort and contributions to humankind.

Most workers put in so much effort in their jobs without getting adequately recognized or rewarded for their deeds. Because of this, a certain group of brave men and women came up with the initiative to celebrate all workers in different countries.

This initiative became a celebration of laborers and the working classes promoted by the International Labor Movement. The Workers’ Day was set aside to commemorate the historic struggles and gains made by workers and the labor movement.

History and Significance

While most countries today recognize it as a national holiday, it has its origins in early socialist and labor union activities.The origin of Workers Day dates back to the 1860s when working conditions were harsh for workers all over the world; it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hours in hazardous and unsafe conditions in some industries.

As a result of the harsh working conditions, thousands of men, women and children were losing their lives every year in the workplace and the employers seemed unbothered. It became so bad that life expectancy was as low as early twenties in some industries.Out of desperation, some of the workers tried to shorten the workday to eight hours without a pay cut.

On May 1, 1886, some US workers engineered a nationwide strike demanding an eight-hour workday; the strike eventually became a violent protest. In addition, few days into the protest, a peaceful meeting at Haymarket Square was bombed, sparking a riot that left several police officers and protesters dead. The incident would later be termed the ‘Haymarket Affair’.

Eventually, May 1 was chosen as the International Workers’ Day by the ‘Second International’, a pan-national organization of socialist and communist political parties, to commemorate the Haymarket Affair.

Workers’ rights activists advocated for the day to be recognized as one that promotes workers’ rights and better working conditions.

All Social Democratic Party Organizations and Trade Unions of countries were called on to demonstrate energetically on May 1, for the legal establishment of the eight-hour day, class demands of the workers and for universal peace.

In Nigeria, May Day was first declared a holiday by the People Redemption Party (PRP) Government of Kano State in 1980 and became a national holiday from May 1, 1981.

Although May 1 is celebrated as a holiday by governments across the world, the US and Canada have their official holiday for Workers on the First Monday of September. However, in countries like Israel, May Day is not recognized, even though it is a paid holiday in that country.

The aim of this annual holiday is to honor the achievements of workers.  In some cities, groups take out rallies to raise awareness about the day. Workers also decorate banners and posters, highlighting their rights.

It is hoped that the rights of workers in our country and around the world will continue to be protected so that we can all be better for it.