Glimpses of May Day Around the World

With the rise of anti-worker reforms such as the Labour Codes in India or the Pension Reforms in France, May Day processions were used to protest these anti-worker measures and demand an increase in wages, a control on inflation and an end to contractualisation.

May Day

This International Labour Day or May day, demonstrations and protests erupted across the world in full swing. With the rise of anti-worker reforms such as the Labour Codes in India or the Pension Reforms in France, May Day processions were used to protest these anti-worker measures and demand an increase in wages, a control on inflation and an end to contractualisation.

May day, Brief History: 

In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions called for May 1, 1886, to be the beginning of a nationwide movement for the eight-hour day. Though the eight-hour workday law already existed, the federal governments had failed to enforce it.

On May 1, 1886, 80,000 workers reportedly marched in Chicago. The next day, around 35,000 workers held another peaceful protest. But on May 3, the Chicago police attacked and killed picketing workers, provoking a protest meeting at Haymarket Square the next day. During this meeting, protestors were once again attacked by over a hundred policemen and someone unknown to this day, threw the first dynamite bomb ever used in peacetime history of the United States. The police panicked and many shot at their own men. Seven policemen and four workers died while several others were injured.

The next day martial law was declared throughout the United States. Anti-labor governments around the world used the Chicago incident to crush local union movements. Eight labour leaders were blamed for the Haymarket Square violence, of whom five received the death penalty were hanged later in the year.

In July 1889, a labour conference in Paris declared that May 1 would be set aside as International Labor Day in memory of Haymarket martyrs and the injustice of the Haymarket Affair. Today in almost every major industrial nation,  May day is celebrated on the May 1 of every year to uphold labour rights and to commemorate the efforts and sacrifices of past labour movements in achieving rights such as the eight-hour workday or the five-day workweek. 


Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) organised several rallies across the country, such as in Hyderabad and in Siliguri.

Factory workers in Manesar including the Maruti Suzuki Powertrain Employees’ Union and Mazdoor Sehyog Kendra held a rally and program in IMT Manesar’s Tau Devilal Park.

Factory workers in Kundli village, Sonepat, also gathered to demand that contractualisation be eradicated, the minimum wage be raised to Rs. 25,000 and the workday be reduced to eight hours. 

In Karnataka, Communist Party of India (Marxist) held several rallies in Bengaluru and Bagepalli in support of their candidates for the upcoming Karnataka Assembly Elections, 2023.


In South Korea, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) organised a rally by the name of “World Labor Day convention” in Jongno, Seoul. The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) gathered in Yeouido for a national labour congress that was reportedly attended by 30,000 people. Attendees spoke out against the current conservative government’s efforts to push labour reforms and weaken union powers. FKTU demanded that labour reforms be deterred, minimum wage be increased, revisions of the Serious Disaster Punishment Act and the pension systems be stopped. Workers of leading food delivery app Baedal Minjok held a rally in front of the company’s headquarters in southern Seoul to demand a rise in their basic delivery fee that has remained the same in nine years despite massive inflation. The Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination also held a rally near Seoul City Hall.

In Indonesia, the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI), representing 32 labour unions, organised a rally in Jakarta that reportedly saw attendance from 50,000. They gathered near the National Monument and marched to the Constitutional Court to demand the new repeal of the anti-labour Job Creation Law.

In Manila, Philippines, nearly 6000 protestors gathered under fourteen labour groups, including Kilusan and West Philippine Sea (WPS). They marched demanding regularisation of contractual workers, raise in salary and control over inflation. More than 3000 workers from the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Partido Manggagawa (PM), Public Services International (PSI), and Association of Women Workers in the Construction Industry (AWVCI) also hit the road along España Blumentrit. Members of the Communication Workers of the Philippines (CWP) also held a program at the Supreme Court of the Philippines in Ermita, Manila at around 9 a.m. to call for an end to contractualization or “endo” in commemoration of Labor Day.

In Tokyo, Japan, thousands gathered at Yoyogi Park to demand an increase in wages. They criticised Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s plan to double the defence budget through tax increases, and said the money should be spent on welfare and social security and improving people’s daily lives.

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, hundreds gathered to fight for better working conditions and greater pay. Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) and Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) had called for a rally from the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) to the National Assembly. Nearly 2000 people are said to have attended the rally. 

In Taipei, Taiwan, workers – including government hospital and insurance professionals – came together to demand better wages and working conditions. 

In Lebanon, hundreds marched through the streets of downtown Beirut in a rally organised by the Communist Party and other trade syndicates. 

In Pakistan, though authorities have banned rallies in some cities in the name of a tense security situation, several rallies took place in Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi.


In France, protestors hit the streets in around 300 different rally points across the country to show that they won’t abandon the fight against Macron’s pension reforms which raises the retirement age from 62 to 64. Authorities predict that between 500,000 and 650,000 people could protest across the country, including 80,000 to 100,000 in Paris. Air traffic was also disrupted as airport unions joined the demonstrations.

In Germany, feminist and queer groups organised a rally by the name of ‘Take Back The Night’ to protest against violence directed at women and LGBT people. More than 3000 people reportedly attended the event. Around 15,000 people are also expected to participate in the usual “Revolutionary 1st of May Demonstrations” of left and radical left groups from Neukölln to Kreuzberg.

Read Also: Workers March in Delhi Against Anti-worker Labour Codes and Privatization


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May 2024


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