International Workers’ Day also referred as to Workers’ Day, May Day or Labor Day in some countries is a celebration of workers (laborers and working classes). It is celebrated every May 1st of each year and it is promoted by the International Labour Movement.
In over 105 countries, Worker’s Day is celebrated as Labor Day while in others such as in the US, they have a separate Labor Day which is celebrated on the first Monday of September each year as a “tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers,” states History.com.
The emancipation by works to gain an 8-hour work day from the 10-16 hours as well as get a better working environment began in the 1860s but gained momentum in the 1880s.
The long working hours and poor working conditions caused death to many employees at their workplace. Furthermore, their life expectancy was short, there were brutal police attacks on striking workers such as those working on Railroad. All this made the most working class feel like capitalist were trading them for profits, making them incline towards socialism.
During the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions held at its national convention in Chicago in 1884, a proclamation stating that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886,” was made, notes the Industrial Workers of the World.
After a struggle between workers and anarchists characterized by workers strikes, police massacres and violence, many employers and capitalists slowly started giving in to the demands of workers.
On May 1, 1886, over 300,000 workers from over 13,000 business walked off their working places with Chicago being an epicenter. No violence was witnessed except on May 3, 1886, between strikers and police at the McCormick Reaper Works and the Haymarket massacre a day later.
A few years later, in 1889, the International Workers’ Day was created to remember those who were killed in the Haymarket massacre and approved officially in 1891 after several successful American Federation of Labor’s protests.
Labor Day in Kenya
Kenya is among the countries that celebrate Labor Day on the International Worker’s Day and the celebration is usually held at Uhuru Park. It is organized by the Central Organization of Trade Union (COTU), the worker union umbrella together with the ministry of labor.
During the celebration, various leaders both from the Kenyan Government and various workers union address the gathering. Such leaders include the President, Deputy President, Cabinet Secretary of Labor, COTU leadership, local area leaders including the Nairobi governor, members of parliament, among others.
Issues concerning the working class are often addressed including their safety, wages, health, rights as provided by the Kenyan constitution.
However, to the many working Kenyans, Labor Day is the day to look forward to an increment of their wages, especially with the ever-rising inflation.
Labor Day celebration experience in Kenya
Despite being a public holiday and a workers day in Kenya, this event has been politicized with politicians hijacking it, just like they do in many other social events including church services and funerals for their own selfish reasons.
However, the plight of workers is not completely forgotten on this day as the trade union leadership recommend wage increments, better working conditions, resolution on impending workers strikers and so on. Also, the government at times gives pay rise, especially on the minimum wage.
Like most of the other countries, Kenya has its challenges including workers strikes notably teachers, lecturers, doctors, pilots, nurses, etc., as well as poor working conditions and long working hours. Workers plight should not be ignored.