Workers Day – Public Holiday
Workers Day is a national public holiday in South Africa observed on 1 May, much like May Day, where it serves to pay homage to the working class of the nation. Following the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, 1 May was inaugurated as an official national public holiday.
Interesting things about this holiday:
Workers’ Day is also known as May Day.
The other May Day was celebrated on 1 May in the northern hemisphere for centuries to welcome spring. It is associated with maypoles, flowers and other spring rites.
The day is also known as International Workers’ Day, a holiday that is celebrated by about 80 countries with the exception of the United States, because of the holiday’s association with communism. Labour Day is celebrated in the US in September.
In South Africa, Workers’ Day celebrates the role played by Trade Unions, the Communist Party and other labour movements in the struggle against Apartheid.
Following the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, 1 May was inaugurated as an official national public holiday.
For centuries men, women and children were forced to work more than twelve hours a day, including weekends, in miserable conditions for very little pay.
May Day and the struggle for an eight-hour work day had its origins in the Industrial Revolution where industrial production in large factories transformed working life.
By 1 May 1890, May Day demonstrations took place in the United States and most countries in Europe. Demonstrations were also held in Chile and Peru. In Havana, Cuba, workers marched demanding an eight-hour working day, equal rights for all and working-class unity.
Women and children in England were only granted a ten-hour workday in 1847.
In France workers’ demand for a 12-hour day was granted after the February revolution of 1848.
On 3 May 1886 police fired into a crowd of striking workers in Chicago, killing four and wounding many.
The following day a protest rally near Chicago’s Haymarket Square turned into a riot after someone threw a bomb at police. At least eight people died as a result of the violence that day. The Haymarket Riot was viewed as a setback for the organized labour movement in America, which was fighting for such rights as the eight-hour workday.