May 1: International Workers’ Day (aka May Day)

by Bob Schwartz

May 1 represents three different things, depending on who and where you are.

For ages it has been a celebration of spring, including dancing around the Maypole.

It is International Workers’ Day, a labor holiday celebrated around the world, where it is sometimes known simply as Labor Day.

It is Law Day in America.

The spring thing is obvious. International Workers’ Day and Law Day require a little history.

In 1886, a general labor strike was planned for May 1 in Chicago, to promote adoption of the 8-hour work day. It is estimated that 300,000 or more showed up in Chicago, and thousands more around America. A further demonstration was planned for Chicago’s Haymarket Square a few days later on May 4. Clashes there between police and anarchists led to death and destruction, in what is called the Haymarket Square Riot. Nine defendants were arrested for their alleged involvement, and six were ultimately hanged. Since then, May 1 has been International Workers’ Day.

In 1921, at the height of America’s first Red Scare, May 1 was designated Loyalty Day. Then in 1957, during another Red Scare, President Eisenhower declared May 1 Law Day, a celebration of the rule of law—something America needs now as much as ever.

Take your choice on May 1: Celebrate spring, celebrate workers, celebrate the rule of law. Why not all three?