International Workers' Day - May 1st
(Last Updated On: November 8, 2022)


Every year on May 1st, International Workers’ Day seeks to honor laborers and the working classes in many countries throughout the world. This day is also commonly referred to as Labour Day or May Day.

In 1760 a major event called the Industrial Revolution began in Britain. This event spread across the globe and lasted through 1840. During this time, agricultural societies became more industrialized. Inventions such as the railroad, cotton gin, and electricity permanently changed society. Millions of workers around the world were needed during the Industrial Revolution.

Unfortunately, during this time, many employers treated their workers unfairly, paid improper wages, provided poor working conditions, and forced laborers to work long hours. Some employees worked 16 hours a day. What the working class needed was someone to stand up for their rights. In 1864, the International Workingmen’s Association started up in London. The organization fought for the right for workers to organize and also the right for an 8-hour working day. In 1871 workers in France followed suit and started their own labor movement.

Pope Leo XIII became involved in the labor movement when he published, “On the Condition of the Working Classes.” Some of the things he advocated for included shorter work hours, fair wages, elimination of child labor, and the ability for the state to regulate labor conditions. Eventually, the labor movement around the world helped to create a 5-day workweek, paid holidays, and an 8-hour workday. Today, many workers around the world enjoy all the benefits that the labor movement fought so hard for.


In honor of the working class, many companies around the world observe this day by giving their employees a day off. On this day many trade unions and labor associations hold parades, rallies, and other kinds of celebrations. Many families spend the day together. For people in countries that are still fighting for workers’ rights, this is a day of protests, marches, and demonstrations. Spread awareness for this day on social media with #WorkersDay


In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trade and Labour Unions of the U.S. and Canada stated that May 1st, 1886 would mark the start of an 8-hour workday. On May 1, 1886, up to 500,000 workers in the U.S. went on strike. On May 4th, the peaceful protests turned violent. As police attempted to break up the protesters, a bomb was thrown at them. Seven police officers died, along with four civilians. This event is known as the Haymarket Affair. In 1889, an international organization for workers and socialists in Paris declared May 1st as International Workers’ Day. While most countries around the world celebrate on May 1st, the United States and Canada hold their Labor Day on the first Monday in September.



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