Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?: History of the Holiday Worldwide
Labor Day is an annual holiday that is celebrated around the world in commemoration of the labor union movement for worker's rights and as a tribute to working people. While the United States, Canada and Bermuda celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of September, most other countries celebrate it on May 1, known as May Day or International Workers' Day.
Background of the Labour Union Movement
When we celebrate Labor Day, whether in September or May, some notable accomplishments of the labor union movement that are visible in our everyday life are being celebrated. These include the eight hour work day, 2-day weekends, minimum wage, and decent working conditions.
Labor Day in North America
In Canada, Labour Day has been celebrated for over 129 years, ever since 1880. In 1872, a labour demonstration calling for a 58-hour-week prompted the government to pass the Trade Union Act which made labour unions legal. Labour Day was made an official holiday in Canada on July 23, 1894.
In the United States, Labour Day became an official holiday the same year. But, the first Labour Day was celebrated on September 5, 1882, in New York City. The inspiration to organize Labour Day in the States came from Canada, on the initiative of a labour leader Peter J. McGuire.
Labor Day in May - International Workers' Day
In Europe, China and other parts of the world, Labor Day is celebrated on May 1 as International Workers' Day. International Workers' Day was first initiated by the Second International, an organization of socialist and labor parties, in 1889 in commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre that took place in Chicago in 1886. On May 4, 1886, 12 workers were killed during a general strike for an eight hour work day when police fired on the protesting workers.
On International Workers' Day, many countries throughout the world - with the notable exception of Canada and the United States - celebrate the social and economic achievements of the international labor movement with street demonstrations and street marches.