Recognizing International Workers Day

By Owen H. Laird, Esq.

Today, May 1, 2017, millions of people around the world will gather to celebrate International Workers Day, also referred to as “May Day.” In many countries across the world, “Labor Day” is celebrated on May 1.  The significance of this holiday grew in the late 19th century, as a celebration of the ascendance of unions, the rights won for workers, and the ongoing fight for justice in the workplace.

While International Workers Day has a long, storied history in the rest of the world, May Day has lost most of its significance for Americans. While most of the rest of the world has an official public holiday on or about May 1, here in the U.S., the official “Labor Day” is observed in September. In the United States, even September’s Labor Day is typically viewed as a holiday marking the end of summer, rather than bearing any special significance about workers’ rights.  There are generally few public ceremonies for May Day in the United States, in large part because of May Day’s socialist roots; the holiday was first declared by the Second International, an influential coalition of labor and socialist organizations dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

However, the young Trump administration’s already dismal record on workers’ rights has inspired protests today across the country.  President Trump declared today to be “Loyalty Day.”  The concept of an American “Loyalty Day” has existed since 1921, when the holiday was first created in order to oppose the socialist- and communist-associated International Workers Day. Since then, all U.S. presidents have recognized Loyalty Day, typically by releasing a general, non-partisan statement about American values, such as freedom and equality, and encouraging citizens to learn about U.S. history. Trump’s Loyalty Day proclamation, however, mandated public displays of the American flag, as well as mass recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance, and characterized the day as created to “express our country’s loyalty” to “limited government.”

Today, people in the United States will join millions more internationally in using May Day to focus attention on social and economic injustice in their nations.  From Cuba to Turkey to the Philippines, workers have organized today to protest inequality.  Here in the U.S., protests across the country will address a variety of issues: immigrant and migrant rights, racial justice, women’s rights, and health care, to name a few.

With President Trump set to introduce a tax plan that primarily benefits corporations and the wealthy, and the Trump administration doing everything it can to undo social, political, and environmental protections implemented by Barack Obama, today’s protests will further illustrate that the American people will stand up together and protest the backwards direction that this administration is taking on issues like social justice and economic equality. Today, whether you are working, protesting, or neither, take some time to consider the progress we have made in improving the lives of working people, and the work that remains to be done.

If your employer has violated your rights as a worker, contact The Harman Firm, LLP.