May Day on May 1 is an ancient northern Spring holiday that got associated with organized labor movements and is become a day of protest for worker’s and civil rights.
May Day is an Ancient European Spring Holiday
May Day once marked the end of Winter and the start of Summer. It was a Pagan feast day, very much like Jewish Passover and Christian Easter.
May Day is Worker’s Day
May Day got associated with organized labor movements (unions) after the Chicago Haymarket Affair of 1886. In the era of sweat shops and long working hours, a May 4 strike and rally for the eight-hour day turned into a riot with several deaths.
American Labor organizers chose to commemorate the event on May 1. International Labor organizers adopted the date for an international commemoration in 1890.
In the United States the Labor Day holiday on the first Monday in September was established in 1894. Some believe this was done to avoid association with the Haymarket Affair.
Worker’s Day remains a public holiday in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, and much of Latin America. Many Latin consulates in New York City are closed on this day.
In the United States, May Day is becoming a day of action for worker’s and civil rights.
May Day 2017 in New York City
This year Worker’s Day is taking an immigrant focus because of the current Federal administration’s anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, and anti-lifestyle policies.
There is a “Strike to Defend Refugees, Migrants, and all Workers” at Union Square from noon to 5pm. www.facebook.com/events/246734485788270/
There is a Rise Up NY! protest for immigrant and workers’ rights at Foley Square in Manhattan’s Civic Center at 5pm. www.facebook.com/events/1804989066488877/
What You Can Do
However you celebrate May Day, be safe and courteous. Protesting alone doesn’t do much.
Not showing up at work can get you fired. If you plan to protest, do talk with your boss first.
Democracy is not any political system. It is the simple idea that common people should have a say in how they are governed, instead of being told what to do by a strongman or even ruling elites.
There is no perfect democracy, but it works best when people participate. That means we need to educate ourselves about issues and vote.
In our American system, it also means that we need to understand how the political system works and get engaged. Every politician’s main goal is to be reelected.
Calling or mailing letters to your representatives in Congress makes a difference. Attending “Town Hall” meetings during congressional recesses and speaking up makes a difference.
Understanding how the political system works and explaining it to your children makes a difference. Let’s make democracy work for us.