by Stephen Lendman
Labor Day is commemorated on the first Monday in September each year since the first one was celebrated in New York in 1882. Around the world outside the US, socialist and labor movements are observed on May 1 to recognize organized labor’s social and economic achievements and the workers in them. This day gets scant attention in the US, but where it’s prominent it’s commonly to remember the Haymarket Riot of May 4, 1886 in Chicago. It followed the city’s May 1 general strike for an eight hour day that led to violence breaking out on the 4th.
Labor Day became a national federal holiday when Congress passed legislation for it in June, 1894 at a time working people had few rights, management had the upper hand, only wanted to exploit them for profit, and got away with it. It took many painful years of organizing, taking to the streets, going on strike, holding boycotts, battling police and National Guard forces, and paying with their blood and lives before real gains were won. They got an eight hour day, a living wage, on-the-job benefits and the pinnacle of labor’s triumph in the 1930s with the passage of the landmark Wagner Act establishing the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It guaranteed labor the right to bargain collectively on equal terms with management for the first time ever.
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