A Short Summary: The Place and Importance of May 1 in History

Dicle Temiz

Dicle Temiz

Editör - Bilgi Unv.

In many parts of the world, including Turkey, May 1 is celebrated as Workers’ Day. Celebrated with enthusiasm and joy by emphasizing once again the importance of unity, struggle against injustice, and solidarity, May 1 has bitter experiences behind it. We have compiled for you the history and importance of this day, which is accepted as a public holiday in Turkey as well as in many countries:

Workers Oppose Overtime Hours

Although the daily working time is determined as 8 hours in Turkey, this time has not always been 8 hours in history. Workers worked hours ranging from 12 to 16 hours in different parts of the world. In 1856, stone and construction workers marched for the first time in Melbourne, Australia, demanding an 8-hour day. They aimed to make their voices heard against the government by walking from the University of Melbourne to the House of Parliament.
When the calendars showed May 1, 1886, the Confederation of Trade Unions of America started a strike against working 12 hours a day, six days a week. They went to work stoppage demanding to work 8 hours a day and organized demonstrations in the same direction. While half a million workers participated in the demonstrations in Chicago, more than 6,000 workers marched in the demonstrations in Kentucky (Louisville). Black workers and white workers walked side by side in these marches and demonstrations, giving essential messages to the government. At the end of the march, all the workers entered the National Park, and the newspapers drew attention to the resistance of blacks and whites with the headlines ‘Thus the prejudice was destroyed’.

An Unknown Bomb From Where It Came

The events started on 1 May and continued until 4 May, and workers held a rally on 4 May in Haymarket Field. As the rally was dispersed, 4 workers and 7 police officers were killed, and many people were injured as a result of a bomb whose origin is unknown. Thus, it went down in history as the ‘Bloody Haymerket Incident’.

Legal pressures prevented the repetition of workers’ demonstrations, but in 1889, with the suggestion of a French worker representative, it was decided to celebrate May 1 as the “Day of Unity, Struggle and Solidarity” all over the world. Thus, the demonstrations were legally resumed in 1890.

History in Turkey

Labor Day was celebrated for the first time in Turkey on May 1, 1922, as part of friendly relations with the Soviet Union. On May 1, 1923, Labor Day began to be celebrated as a public holiday for the first time, and in 1935, May 1 was accepted as ‘Spring Day’.
May 1, which was not celebrated as a public holiday with the 1980 Coup, was declared a public holiday again in 2009, and the celebrations, attended by 140 thousand people according to official figures, but estimated to be 500 thousand by unofficial figures, took place in Taksim Square without incident.
With the resistance and struggle of the workers, 8-hour labor was accepted in many countries over time. Many countries worldwide celebrate this day, which reflects the unity and solidarity of the workers, with enthusiasm and demonstrations.

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