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International Workers' Day
May 1

A nation's well-being depends on those who work to provide the goods and services that allow its citizens to lead productive and healthy lives. Often throughout history, societies have been divided into different classes, with one class typically having to do much of the work that keeps that society running. Employers and governments have not always treated the working classes well - often workers had to work long hours, in hazardous conditions for little pay.

The labor movement arose in Europe during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and early 19th centuries, beginning with working people organizing into groups called labor unions and trade unions. With strength in numbers, workers had a better chance to convince employers and governments to treat them more fairly. The movement met with great resistance from the priviledged classes. But by the late 1800s it began to grow into a worldwide movement after Pope Leo XIII advocated reforms for the working class, including the elimination of child labor, the right for workers to organize into unions, to have shorter work days and liveable wages.

Today, although there are still sweatshops and other inhumane working conditions for many workers around the world, the labor movement has won numerous victories that many of us take for granted, such as the 5-day work week, 8-hour work day, paid holidays and the end of child labor.

Most of the world celebrates May 1 as International Workers' Day, a time to celebrate the victories that have been won to make many workers' lives safer and more sustainable, and to rally around workers' rights to insist that all workers are treated fairly. Even though this date commemorates the US labor movement's demand for an eight-hour work day to come into effect on May 1, 1886, in the United States the labor force is celebrated on Labor Day on the first Monday in September.

See Also: Labor Day - 1st Monday in September


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DO ONE THING for a Better World

1. Find out more about historical labor leaders, labor leaders and ongoing labor injustices.

2. Hold an event to raise awareness about sweatshops and other violations of workers' rights.

3. Support organizations working to defend workers' rights.


Fair Labor Association
International Labour Organization
Jobs With Justice
Labour Start
National Labor Committee
US Department of Labor
May Day History

LABOR Quotes


Workers' Day

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Workers' Day - May 1

Grace Abbott

John Peter Altgeld

Mary Anderson

Susan B. Anthony

Grace Lee Boggs

Charlotte Bunch

Jimmy Carter

John Cavanagh

Cesar Chavez

Shirley Chisholm

Noam Chomsky

John R. Commons

Bill Cosby

Angela Davis

Eugene V. Debs

Frederick Douglass

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Indira Gandhi

Janeane Garofalo

Samuel Gompers

Joe Hill

Robert G. Ingersoll

Molly Ivins

Mother Jones

Marjorie Kelly

John F. Kennedy

Martin Luther King, Jr.

John Lennon

John L. Lewis

Abraham Lincoln

John Locke

George Meany

David A. Morse

Holly Near

Frances Perkins

Utah Phillips

Wendell Phillips

Bonnie Raitt

A. Philip Randolph

Ocean Robbins

Eleanor Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Aruna Roy

Juan Somavia

Barbra Streisand

H. G. Wells

Woodrow Wilson

Frank Lloyd Wright

Howard Zinn

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Do One Thing Calendar

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DO ONE THING and BetterWorld Kids Clubs are projects of The EMILY Fund (The Emily Silverstein Fund, Inc.)
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