In the Blog

May day

May 1st, 2008     by Cate Simpson     Comments

The transit strike this weekend in Toronto provided a stark reminder of the value of blue collar workers, so it seems particularly appropriate that today is May Day, otherwise known as International Workers’ Day.

May Day began as a commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago, a result of police attempts to disperse a group of striking workers who were rallying for the implementation of the eight-hour work day. It’s now a formally recognized public holiday in many countries around the world, and is still a focal point for protests. May Day anti-capitalist protests in the UK have often erupted into violence (I remember the news reports from one in particular a few years ago. It was unseasonably warm and sunny, and police panicked and surrounded protesters, refusing to allow them to leave the protest site in London’s city centre) and the US chose to hold its own Labour Day in September partly to break the association.

Our Labour Day in Canada, as in the US, is always the first Monday in September, but May 1st still holds significance here - especially in Quebec where it has been seized upon as a day of protest by trade union groups.

Events organized around May Day in Toronto this year include Mayworks, Toronto’s festival of working people and the arts, and Saturday’s May Day of Action, demanding status for immigrants and refugees. In slightly more unusual May Day happenings, the virtual community Second Life is using it as the launch pad for a new project enabling players to form trade unions - Union Island.

So let’s all take a moment today to remember the workers who fought for the rights and conditions we now enjoy. And to think about the fights we still have ahead of us: for longer paid maternity leave, for national daycare, and for equal pay.

Tags: activist report

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