To many, May 1 goes unnoticed, or is simply celebrated as a spring festival complete with the winding dance around the maypole. However, today, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are expected to commemorate a more powerful message, one that more than 100 years ago, caused May 1 to become known as the International Workers Day.
Supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement have been strategically planning a spring comeback on May 1, hoping to remind people what it means to cross social, racial and political divides, and support the working class. While recent history has shown the significant structural issues within the OWS, this May 1 must bring out more than just the traditional protesters, as today isn’t about one protest or cause, but about bringing together people from around the world in solidarity.
The day of May 1 comes from a protest in 1886, when an estimated 300,000 people across the United States walked off their jobs, in the first May 1 celebration in history. Workers were demanding the implementation of the 8-hour workday and a fundamental change to the economic structure of the capitalist system, which rewarded the rich and enslaved the poor. This message still rings clear, as banks and big businesses profit from government bailouts and funding, in an economic system which still promotes the subjugation of the working class to further the power and greed of the elite few.
From Kuala Lumpur to Barcelona, New York and San Francisco, protests are being planned to remind the "1 percent" what life without the working class' "99 percent" would be like. Organizers within OWS and similar groups world wide, have called for a general strike, for people “...To refrain from shopping, walk out of class, take the day off of work and other creative forms of resistance disrupting the status quo.”
While OWS certainly has its flaws, May 1 should be used to remind the people that we hold the power, and that 100 years ago, a mere 300,000 workers were strong enough to stand up to big business, and demand to be heard. That first protest paved the way for today's 8-hour workday; I only hope that we can learn from our past, and come together as more than OWS and make even a fraction of a difference that was made 100 years ago.