May Day in the Making

Click on the triangular “play” button above to hear this segment.

In this audeo clip, first broadcast by Public Radio International/WNYC in New York, historian Peter Linebaugh discusses the history and future of International Workers Day–or, to use the title of his latest book, “the incomplete, true, authentic and wonderful history of May Day.”

Many Americans, familiar only with the holiday called “May Day” that has been celebrated in North America since colonial times, are not aware that the International Workers’ Day celebrated by the labor movement around the world on May 1 has its origins in the United States. This May Day commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Affair, when nearly a quarter of a million workers nationwide went on strike to demand an eight hour work day.  

Historically, May 1st became a day to march in favor of worker’s rights worldwide. In the United States, recent years have seen an increased focus on the rights and conditions of immigrant workers in particular; in 2006, immigration became part of the May Day platform in the U.S. after one million people marched in opposition to a proposed bill on immigration enforcement. Immigration has again become a rallying point this May Day, with nationwide marches planned to as a move of resistance to the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies.

Peter Linebaugh is an historian and the author of “The Incomplete, True, Authentic & Wonderful History of May Day.

 

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