May Day (often referred locally as Labour Day) in Indonesia was first observed as a public holiday in 2014. Every year on this day, laborers take to the streets in major cities across the country, voicing their demands for better income and support policies from the government.
The first of May operates under many different names: International Workers Day, Worker’s Day, Labour Day and May Day. It has been recognized internationally since 1904. Historically, it is an opportunity for workers to protest for and celebrate the eight hour work day.
The history of the holiday begins in the United States. A classic tale of the exploitation of the laborer by the capitalist elite. The movement was for the eight-hour workday. Prior to this, it was not uncommon to have a 10-16 hour workday and very unsavory conditions for the laborer. There were no child labor laws at this time and children were subjected to the same conditions as adults.
In the United States, socialist and anarchist groups began to form labor organizations to combat the mistreatment of labor by the capitalist elite. On May 1, 1886, over 300,000 workers walked off their jobs in the United States to protest unfair working conditions.
Chicago, Illinois was the epicenter of these protests. Peaceful protesters in the city eventually grew to totals over 100,000. All the labor protests were peaceful until May 3, 1886. Agitations grew from an ongoing strike of the Metal Worker’s Union. Regular beatings by police and Pinkerton agents continued until strikers began to throw rocks in defense. The police fired on the crowd killing at least two strikers and wounding many others.
Haymarket Square was the location selected to discuss the police brutality of the previous day. Although the protest had low attendance and was peaceful, tensions began to build. As the crowd dispersed, a bomb was tossed into the crowd of police by an unknown person. It is not known whether the bomber was an anarchist, Pinkerton, policeman or a labor sympathizer. The police responded with gunfire. It is estimated that at least seven or eight civilians were killed and forty more wounded. The events resulted in the eventual death of eight police.
Eight anarchists were arrested and brought to trial. The reality of the situation is the anarchists had nothing to do with the violence. They were incarcerated for having different political and social beliefs. The trial was an abuse of legal power and represented the interests of capitalist businesses.
Although the United States does not celebrate May 1st labor day, it is the source of its origin. The United States does celebrate a Labor day on the first Monday in September. Celebrate the global rights of workers in a peaceful manner on this May 1, 2019.