The First May is marked as the May Day across the world. It is recognized as "The International Labor Day". The history of the May Day tells us that it established itself in 1886 in the great industrial city of Chicago in the U.S.A. It was the great recognition of the limit of working hours for laborers that was demanded through formal protestations placed before the industrialists by the working laborers: the specific points of the demand were that the working hours should be limited down to eight hours instead of twelve or fifteen (in some cases). It is, however needless to say that the U.S.A. had then passing through her industrialization.
There were killings in Chicago streets (especially in Haymarket) but the revolution of the laborers came out successful. There was great consequences of the Haymarket strike, in addition to instantaneous killings. Many were arrested, tried and executed by law; there were suicidal cases too. But, since the demand was based on humanitarian ground, the working multitude won the victory. Many other American industrial cities (like Philadelphia, and Boston) were sparked out immediately and the move appeared unstoppable. Since then May Day (May 1) is recognized as the International Workers' Day or International Labor Day: the spirit of Chicago movement stood as the mother inspiration and later adopted for all the working people around the world. Today's ILO (International Labor Organization) functions primarily on the principles formulated by Chicago revolution so that the basic interest of the working people can be protected. From the affairs of the manual laboring class, however the principles have now been adopted for all non-manual and intellectual laborers too: it encompasses labor of any variety. This is a global phenomenon now, an item of global value.Through the Haymarket victory history recorded a new progress in human civilization that marked the illogical atrocity of mill-owners or factory-owners and industrialists.
In Bangladesh May Day is observed on the 1st May, as elsewhere, with due solemnity, every year. The day is observed as a public holiday. Processions and parades are done, mainly by the working class people across the streets of all the major cities and towns in the country. The May Day is considered a red letter day in Bangladesh; public and private organizations, including some cultural organizations arrange seminars and discussions highlighting the significance and dignity of the day. The prime motto of the day is the dignity of human labor that are expressed in special issues in print media or the live programs on electronic channels. The day assumes a great national importance in diverse fashions. The ILO conventions are maintained in full harmony with the fundamental principles of the May Day.
Though Bangladesh is not truly an industrialized nation, yet we have some little volume of industrial and semi-industrial operations where a great number of laborers work. Our garment industry, which is more than thirty years old, involves an enormous labor force. There are other business sectors and public and private organizations including hundreds of N.G.Os where huge number of people work. So the implication of the May Day is great in Bangladesh. No doubt the industrial laborers in Bangladesh live a hard life on miserable income.
They have inadequate living condition in many respects. Of course there are cases where the laboring people earn extra money for their over-work. There are crises of various sorts so that the working class of people fight for the rightful due. It is not out place to recall that there had been a number of tragic accidents, such as Rana Plaza tragedy in Savar, TazrinFashionTragedy at Ashulia that caused death to a huge number of factory workers. It reminds us that we have to improve conditions so that the fundamental mission of the May Day can be achieved and laboring people (irrespective of caste, creed, color or vocation) can get a better human living in our society.It is good to see that measures have been taken for improving the working environments at our garment factories and monetary benefits are being restructured so that the garment sector can progress more. For, our garment industry is the blood of our national economy.
The manual workers, who are known as the laborers in Bangladesh, are mostly uneducated and they are not aware of their rights and responsibilities and are not aware of the great value of the May Day: they participate in parades and processions being guided by the leaders who are slightly above their level. And sometimes those innocent laborers fall into the traps of politics by virtue of which sometimes the benefits of any movement go to the hands of improper corners. So it is seen that labor discontent is an unending problem despite honest efforts made most of the time. It is a blessing in Bangladesh that gender discrimination in laboring community does not work on a great scale. People are now more conscious and aware of the laws and regulations so the women folk, who had sometimes been cheated of the rights cannot be defrauded or deprived of any of their dues even though are stray cases.
The women laborers in Bangladesh enjoy equal rights and privileges as the males do. No doubt these virtuous things are the outcome of the Labor Struggle on May Day in Chicago more than a century back, in a land far away from our geography. As a matter of fact Haymarket bloodshed was the Renaissance of the working class that brought in diversity of benefits for all working people of any country, any color, any community and culture. The May Day opened a glorious chapter in the human history as the French Revolution opened and paved the way to democracy in Europe the benefits of which is the priceless possession of all human kind across the world.
There are poets and writers who were greatly motivated by the May Day spirit, directly or indirectly. KaziNazrul Islam our national poet, and Sukanta Bhattacharya composed verses and lyrics that were inspired by the spirit of the dignity of human labor. Many American novelists like Toni Morrison or Paule Marshall and Richard Wright are there who upheld the dignity of the working class people in their literary works. Charles Dickens, the most representative novel of the Victorian era wrote David Copperfield in which a protest against child labor was ingrained and the British government had to pass law in protection of child labor by making it unlawful. In Bangladesh child labor is still a precarious issue: we have to protect our child community so that they are not abused or misused by any corner. Rather they can be privileged with wide opportunity for education and health because this is not exactly out of context here to mention.
In fine we can say that May Day is the recognition to the dignity of human labor that is inseparably related to the economic entity of a nation: where there is money there is labor and where there is labor there is dignity. It is the responsibility of government of a state to ensure the dignity of labor because by maintaining the dignity of labor one can respect humanity in the best manner. The writer is a Professor of English Daffodil International University (DIU)
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