Wednesday 1 May 2013

1 May: International Workers' Day

International Workers' Day (also known as May Day) is a celebration of the international labour movement. May 1 is a national holiday in more than 80 countries and celebrated unofficially in many other countries.

International Workers' Day is the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket massacre in Chicago. The police were trying to disperse a public assembly during a general strike for the eight-hour workday, when an unidentified person threw a bomb at them. The police reacted by firing on the workers, killing four demonstrators. "Reliable witnesses testified that all the pistol flashes came from the center of the street, where the police were standing, and none from the crowd. Moreover, initial newspaper reports made no mention of firing by civilians. A telegraph pole at the scene was filled with bullet holes, all coming from the direction of the police."

In 1889, the first congress of the Second International, meeting in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution and the Exposition Universelle, called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International's second congress in 1891.

Subsequently, the May Day Riots of 1894 occurred. In 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on "all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace." The congress made it "mandatory upon the proletarian organizations of all countries to stop work on May 1, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers."

In many countries, the working classes sought to make May Day an official holiday, and their efforts largely succeeded. May Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations.

In the United States and Canada, however, the official holiday for workers is Labor Day in September.

In 1955, the Catholic Church dedicated May 1 to "Saint Joseph The Worker". The Catholic Church considers Saint Joseph the patron saint of workers and craftsmen.

However, do our students know why 1st May is a day off?

Lesson Plan: 1 May, International Workers' Day


-  Getting students to understand their connection to the history of organized labour.
- Getting students to reflect on the organized non-violent fight of international workers’ in order to get rights we are currently losing.
- Getting students to consider ways to apply what they have learned to improve working conditions today.


- Reading, Listening and Discussion activities: International Workers' Day.

- See the videos:

   International Workers' Day around the world

   Labour Day in Milano

   Union Workers Spend Labor Day at annual zoo picnic

- Ask students to discuss the following questions in teams:
  1. What differences can you see between the way the International Workers' Day is celebrated in Milano or in the USA and the way it is commemorated in countries such as The Philippines or Cambodia? 
  2. Why do you think there are such differences?
  3. What are the consequences of unemployment for young people in your country, and what are the consequences for young people in impoverished ones?
  4. What responsibilities do individuals have to society?
  5. What responsibilities does society have to individuals? 
  6. Whose responsibility is it to fight for everybody's right to work, for better working conditions and especially against slavery and exploitation?
  7. What factors can motivate you to fight for justice?
  8. How can we work for social change in a non-violent way?

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