WORKERS DAY: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
May Day is a Public holiday usually observed in many countries around the world. It began as an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival or a tradition spring holiday in many cultures featuring dances, singing and eating of cake. But in the late nineteenth century, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers Day by the Socialists and Communists countries to commemorate the Haymarket affairs in Chicago in the United States.
The holiday also known as Labour Day or International Workers’ Day is marked in over eighty countries to celebrate the achievements of workers in various places and conditions. For example, in the 1860’s workers campaigned for shorter working hours in many countries.
This led to the 1884 American Federation or organizes Trades and Labour Unions demand for an eight –hour working to come into effect on May first 1886. This resulted in a general strike and this Haymarket Pilot of 1886 and eventually official approval of the eight hour work day.
Also as part of the struggle for better conditions for workers, an eight-hour holiday was declared in Paris, France in 1889 by the International Workers Congress. However, in the 20th Century, the holiday received official endorsement of the Soviet Union and is also celebrated as the Day of International Solidarity or Workers, especially in some Communist States.
Reports say celebrations in Communist countries during the cold war era consisted of large military parades with the exhibition of latest weaponry and shows of common people in support of the government. The Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various Communist, Socialist, and Anarchist groups. Meanwhile, Nigerian workers are celebrating the day with the counter parts all over the world.
The event involves organized workers led by Nigeria Labour congress and the Trade Union Congress, professionals, students, Market men and women, as well as members of other civil society organizations. The working people around the world have always had to struggle to win decent wages, and safe working conditions.
In Nigeria, May Day as a holiday was first declared by the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, Government of Kano State in 1980 and it became a national holiday on May 1, 1981.