Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, September 07, 2015

Why not May 1?

Most countries in the world celebrate labor day on May 1. Why? In part the date is connected to a momentous event in labor history in the USA (Haymarket affair in Chicago).

In the USA, Labor Day is "celebrated" in September. The reason is an artifact of anti-communism and the Cold War.

The Second International pushed to declare the European spring holiday of May 1 as International Workers Day back in 1889. With such socialist backing, the idea was unlikely to ever win much support in the USA.

About the same time, big unions in the USA lobbied for a day to recognize workers. President Cleveland and Congress agreed to the holiday, but not in May.

After World War I and the Russian Revolution, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) lobbied Congress to declare May 1 as "Americanization Day." Others later urged that the first of May be called "Loyalty Day" and "Law Day." And a day to honor workers has been kept safely separate from any hint of socialism or communism.

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What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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