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The Bloody Story of May Day and Our expectations

Updated on April 30, 2016

May Day is government holiday. It is celebrated in every year on 1st May to commemorate the Haymarket massacre in the Chicago on 1886. May Day is also known as the International Worker’s Day and International Labor Day. It is celebrated to promote and encourage the International Labor associations. The US observes its official Labor Day on the first Monday in September.

In the late 19th century, working conditions were severe for the workers. It was quite common to work 10 to 16 hours in a day in unsafe conditions. Workers agitated to shorten the work hours in a day without a cut in pay. The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (later it was renamed as the American Federation of Labor) declared 8 hours as the legal time for the workers in the National Convention at Chicago. They proclaimed that ‘eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.’ On 4th May 1886, during a general strike for the 8 hours work day, the police were trying to disperse a public assembly. When an unidentified person threw a bomb at the police. It wounded 67 policemen, of whom 7 died. The police responded by firing on the workers. It wounded 200 demonstrators and killed 4. The Haymarket Tragedy became a part of the US history.

Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg were arrested and convicted of murder though only three of them were present at Haymarket when the bombing occured. After many failed appeals Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fischer were hung to death on November 11, 1887.

In 1889, the International Socialist Conference declared that May 1 would be an International holiday for labor in commemoration of the Haymarket affair.

Various socialist, communist and anarchist groups observes May Day as the Labor Day. It has long been a focal point for demonstrations to them. May Day has been an important official holiday in many countries. May Day celebrations typically feature elaborate popular and military parades in the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Cuba and the former Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union arranged large military parade in Red Square on May Day which became an enduring symbol of that period. This parade was attended by the top leaders of the Kremlin, especially the Politburo, atop Lenin’s Tomb.

In Bangladesh, May day has been observed as public holiday since 1972. Tazreen Fashion and Rana Plaza tragedy remind us that we have to go through more miles to establish friendly environment and quality life for the worker. Vision 2021 will remain a dream if Bangladesh do not pay attention to the laborers who are working for country’s export, reserve and economy.

We hope the government of Bangladesh will take some initiatives to enhance the facilities for workers including minimum wage, safe working place and others. We expect that the owners of mills and factories side by side President and Prime Minister will play an important role for the development of worker’s dignity and quality of life.


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