Internationally, thousands of years ago, the working classes were exploited and forced to work very long hours under grueling conditions to earn their bread and butter.
England’s Robert Owen raised the demand for a ten-hour day as early as 1810. Women and children were only granted a ten-hour day thirty years later.
Forty eight years later, the French workers demand for a 12-hour day was eventually granted.
A lustrum later, Parisian congress called for an international demonstration to campaign for an eight-hour day in keeping with the American Federation of Labour’s 1886 demonstrations of 1 May.
The call was a resounding success and workers in many countries marked the celebration of labourers rights on May Day.
Thankfully, after a hue and a cry, the demand for an eight-day was granted. The logic was that “eight hours’ daily labor is more than enough for any man to perform”.
Ironically, while May Day gained momentum across the world it lost steam in the United States where the celebration originated. The United States celebrates their Labour Day on the first of September.
Here in South Africa, Worker’s Day became recognized more especially after our 1994 democratic elections. A worthy journey decades later.
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