The origin of May Day is indissolubly bound up with the struggle for the shorter workday – a demand of major political significance for the working class. This struggle is manifest almost from the beginning of the factory system in the United States.
Although the demand for higher wages appears to be the most prevalent cause for the early strikes in this country, the question of shorter hours and the right to organize were always kept in the foreground when workers formulated their demands against the bosses and the government. As exploitation was becoming intensified and workers were feeling more and more the strain of inhumanly long working hours, the demand for an appreciable reduction of hours became more pronounced.
The continual fight for worker’s social, economic and political rights continues till this day in more than 80 countries around the world that celebrate International Workers Day. While what exactly constitutes the working class is not always clear – it is apparent in most nations that the employed, the subordinates, the man on the ground need a voice.
See protests videos and pictures from around the world that underscore the global nature of this ongoing fight. Whether it is a march against austerity measures, rising costs of living or stagnant wages – workers and unions continue to make known to governments and corporations that the current economic and political system continues to disproportionately disadvantage their class.
At home, the usual top-down message from PM Lee that reaffirmed the tripartite system had to compete for airtime with ground-up rally organized by Gilbert Goh of transitioning.org that protested the white paper and the government’s plans to let in more immigrants.