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Labour Day in the US

May 18, 2013

WHILE agreeing with Dr Arshad Ahmed that May 1 is not observed in the US as Labour Day (May 6), I would like to clarify that it was not mentioned so in my letter published on May Day. At the outset I had written that labour unions in the United States feel proud that ‘May Day’ was born in their country in 1886, which is a reality. The US and Canada are the only two countries in the world which celebrate Labour Day on the first Monday in September.

According to the information available on the Internet, a group of labour and community leaders met in June 2006 to discuss and begin planning a May Day USA celebration in Philadelphia. The purpose of the meeting was to form the May Day USA Committee and to celebrate May Day on May 1, like the rest of the world. The group felt that one way to build labour solidarity with workers around the world was to celebrate the global Labour Day with them, especially since it started in the United States, in Chicago.

The committee further thought it to be a disgrace that none of this information was taught in America’s history books during the first 12 years of public education in their country. This history has been hidden, stolen, suppressed and lied about for the past 127 years and the committee wanted to set the record straight.

More than 40 labour and community organisations have adopted the May Day USA Resolution, which includes the true history of ‘May Day’. The main thrust of the committee so formed is to bring about awareness of this history through education and celebration of May Day.

Even in Pakistan, May Day is at present not celebrated with the same enthusiasm and vigour as displayed by labour unions during the period 1972-76. Actively supported by the then government, the unions had gained so much strength that the entrepreneurs were compelled to agree to their unjustified demands in order to escape damage to the plant machinery and equipment by them and consequent closure of the factories.

This situation should have neutralised thereafter but due to the curbs on freedom of association imposed by the succeeding military ruler, the labour movement lost its sting and to date the unions have not been able to play an effective and meaningful role in helping their respective establishments to progress and effect improvement in productivity.

PARVEZ RAHIM     Karachi