Significance of May Day


Manoj Gupta**

May Day or International Workers’ Day, is observed on 1st May every year to commemorate the historic struggle of working people throughout the world, and is recognized in most of the countries world over.

Brief History

The heart of the labour movement was in Chicago, USA. In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions passed a resolution stating that eight hours should constitute a day’s work legally from May 1, 1886. The resolution called for a general strike to achieve this goal. The workers were being forced to work more than twelve hours a day. By April 1886, more than 2 lakh workers were involved in the May Day movement.

The Government then was terrified by the increasing revolutionary nature of the movement and prepared accordingly. By 1st May, the movement got momentum. On May 3, 1886, police fired into a crowd of strikers at the McCormick Reaper Works Factory, killing four and wounding many. The agitators called for a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square to protest the brutality. The Chicago Police marched into the square and ordered the meeting to disperse and eventually opened fire on the demonstrators killing several workers.

May Day

The World over May Day has been a focal point for demonstrations by various communist and socialist movement groups. In effect, May Day has of late been a celebration, rather than a commemoration. May Day is an important official holiday in communist countries like Russia, China and Cuba. May Day is generally marked by street rallies, meetings and demonstrations by trade unions and parties with socialist ideologies. The first May Day celebration in India was organized in Madras ( now Chennai) by the Labour Kisan Party on 1st May, 1923. This was perhaps the first time that red flag was used in the country.

Labour Welfare Schemes

The Union Minister for Labour & Employment, Shri Mallikarjun Kharge chose May Day 2010 to highlight Government’s labour welfare schemes. In his May Day Message to the Nation, he said: For providing social security measures to unorganized sector workers, a new Act, namely the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 has been enacted. Simultaneously, a Health Insurance Scheme for the poor titled ‘Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana’ (RSBY) has become operational from 01.04.2008. Under the scheme, all Below Poverty Line (BPL) families would be issued smart cards to facilitate cashless transaction up to Rs.30,000/- for seeking medical treatment. About 1.4 crore smart cards have been issued so far.”.

New Initiatives

Enumerating the future plans of the Government Shri Kharge said: “The computerization plan of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) is being implemented with the help of NIC. Several new initiatives have been undertaken by Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) to improve the quality of delivery of service under ESI Scheme. New geographical areas are also being covered, an IT Roll Out Plan is being implemented and Medical Education Projects are being taken up”.

To the workers, May Day is not only a historically significant day , but also is a day to organize themselves against all sorts of exploitations and oppressions. (PIB Features)

Joe Hill wrote in one of his songs:

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might
Take the wealth that you are making,
It belongs to you by right.
No one will for bread be crying
We’ll have freedom, love and health,
When the grand red flag is flying

In the Workers’ Commonwealth.

**Joint Director (M&C), Ministry of Labour & Employment, PIB, New Delhi


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