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The History of Labour Day

Written by Daniella

For many people Labour Day is a another holiday, without even thinking for a moment about its origin. As there is a reason behind every special day off, it is important to know what we are celebrating, to be able to understand the reason that led to May 1 being the day of workers, in which we commemorate work in general and its contribution to a country’s economy. Today ShMadrid will tell you more about the history of Labour Day, and what this important date represents.

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Why do we celebrate Labour Day?

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International Workers’ Day occurs every year on May 1, but few people know why. The story behind this day, which got lost towards the end of the 19th century, takes place in the United States. The reason is a tribute to the so-called Martyrs of Chicago, a group of revolutionary trade unionists who fought to get an 8-hour work day, which is currently classified as a full-time job. Back in those days workdays were absolutely exhausting, and they prevented workers from having a personal or family life, even time to rest adequately was uncommon. These unionists were  unfortunately executed for their claims in 1886, hence the qualification of martyrs. The related strikes, which were not reduced in any way by the fear of a similar fate to that of the Martyrs of Chicago, grew and spread throughout the whole country, forcing the authorities to give in with the collaboration of the Noble Order of the Knights of Labour, an organization of workers, and finally in that same year the working day was reduced to 8 hours a day. This new labour law was officially introduced on May 1.

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Today many countries celebrate May 1 as the origin of the modern labour movement. There are some countries, however, that do not celebrate this day on May 1, such as the United States and Canada, that celebrate Labour Day on the first Monday of September and New Zealand, that celebrates on the fourth Monday of October. In Australia, each federal state chooses its own date of celebration: the first Monday of October in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and South Australia; the second Monday of March in Victoria and Tasmania; the first Monday of March in Western Australia; and May 1 in Queensland and the Northern Territory. Now you know a bit more on the history of May 1 as a worker’s day and the importance of it, because if it had not been for the dignity and bravery of a handful of workers who lost their lives fighting for new rights, and for an entire country standing up against inhumane labour laws, workers would not have the privileges they have today.

Did you already know about the history of Labour Day?

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Daniella

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