THE BLOG

Why We Should Celebrate May Day - International Workers Day

09/04/2014 17:48 BST | Updated 08/06/2014 10:59 BST

May Day has been a traditional holiday for the UK stretching back hundreds of years evolving from the Celtic festival of Beltane into a celebration of workers and worker's rights throughout the world.


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Scottish Labour leader Keir Hardie addresses a tailors' rally on May Day in Hyde Park in 1912. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


Many believe that International Labour Day (May Day) originates from a communist country behind the Iron Curtain but, in fact, International Labour Day is as American as Big Mac and Fries.

The origin of May Day lies in the fight for an eight-hour working day in the USA.  A protest and rally was called in Chicago on the first of May 1886 after trade unionists had been hanged and imprisoned.  This protest attracted over 400,000 people.

By 1890, the initial protest in Chicago had spread into an international protest for worker's rights.  In May of 1890, over 300,000 people protested at the May Day rally in London. These May Day events in 1890 were planned to be a one-off events but due to the flourishing trade union movement over this period the May Day protests remained.

For over one hundred years we have seen this annual celebration yet it's origins and purpose appears to be blurred. Yet this celebration is as relevant today as it was in 1890.

Today's workers face obstacles that are be similar to their 1890 counterparts.  Today's workers have to compete in a low wage economy where wages are are not keeping up with real inflation whilst their working conditions are being damaged by corporations and neo-liberal politics .

Austerity is the intentional deflation of incomes by reduction/removal of wages, benefits and public services.  That is the reason why we are seeing a cost of living crisis.  This is why wages and incomes are not keeping up with the basics such as food and energy.



Workers wages and working conditions are under attack by neo-liberal politics and profit hungry corporations.  Workers' Rights -  which have been build up over the generations before us - are being taken removed under the guise of reforms.

For goodness sake, we even had the absurd situation last year when the largest privately owned company in the UK went 'on strike' to force their workers into accepting worsening pay and conditions.

This company blackmailed the Government into a £134M subsidy while moving their HQ to Switzerland to avoid paying tax in the UK.

We need a strong trade union movement, especially considering the lack of representation the trade union movement receives from Labour at Westminster.  This is the moment in time when the labour movement desperately needs political representation yet it appears that the Labour Party and Westminster politics has turned it's back on workers in the UK.

Only 4% of MPs come from a working class background yet over 60% of the population classify themselves as working class.  The political class has turned it's back on workers; instead they prefer to compete for the attentions of big business and 'pro-business' stakeholders.


In an age of profit and balance sheets - the last bastion of workers still remain.  Democratic bodies who put worker's interests before anything else.  Trade Unions may have been born many years back but these Goliaths of civic UK are still on the front line -  defending communities; defending workers; defending ordinary men and woman every day of the week in every town village and city in the country.

On Mayday this year I will be in Glasgow with my friends. I will celebrate our day, the day for the working class by the working class. Check with your local trades council and join the May Day celebrations in your area!

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I will be in Glasgow on May Day!