1st May – Labor Day history

Labor Day is celebrated in many countries on May 1. It is associated with the commemoration of the Chicago workers’ strike of 1886, which was violently suppressed by the police.

Labor Day history

At the end of the 19th century, workers in Chicago fought primarily for an eight-hour work day. The strike slogans were also fair working and pay conditions carried by thousands of employees – including emigrants from Poland. Many demonstrators were killed by bullets – all protest was bloodily suppressed by the police.

Officially – Labor Day was introduced by the Second Socialist International at the congress in Paris (1889), choosing the anniversary of the events in Chicago for the day of the celebration. The whole union movement that was emerging at that time, regardless of the differences in its views, declared this day as their holiday. The exception is only the United States, where – to avoid unpleasant associations with the events of Chicago – Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September.

For the first time, the celebration of this holiday in most countries, as well as in Poland, took place already in 1890. The celebrations were organized by both political parties (which introduced employee rights into their programs) and local trade unions.

In Poland, this trend was represented primarily by the Polish Socialist Party of Józef Piłsudski, and after 1918 – the Polish Trade Union.
Labor Day was particularly solemnly celebrated after the World War II, during the PRL (Polish People’s Republic). During this day marches, gatherings and rallies were being organized. Participation was most often mandatory or even premium due to the possibility of buying attractive goods. The fall of the Polish People’s Republic has made such a solemn celebration of May 1 a thing of the past.

After 1989, manifestations of leftist parties are still organized, sometimes even demonstrators clash with members of organizations representing the extreme right wing organizations.

On May 1st, the Roman Catholic Church proclaimed the feast of Józef Robotnik – the patron of working people. Nowadays, in many countries Labor Day is a day off from work and an opportunity for family trips – perhaps trips on the trail of your Polish ancestors? 😉

photo from NAC resources