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Why the first of May is workers’ day

The workers’ day — also known as labor day in most of the countries — is celebrated every year on the 1st of May and recalls the struggles carried out by the workers to assert their rights and improve their condition.

"Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest" was the slogan invented in Australia in 1855 and shared by most of the twentieth century during the trade union movements. Indeed, it was at the beginning of the twentieth century that the first general demands began and the need was felt to define a day on which all workers could meet to exercise a form of struggle and assert their right to independence. On July 20, 1889, the Second International meeting was held in Paris, where it was decided to promote a demonstration all over the world to request a reduction in the number of working hours to 8.

Why was especially May 1st chosen as workers' day? The decision was influenced by important worker demonstrations held a few years earlier in Chicago where, following a violent crackdown, where there was a clash between police, workers, and anarchists gathered in the episode known as Haymarket's Revolt (Haymarket Riot). The story caused two deaths and many injuries and marked a turning point for the issue of labour rights in the United States.

A holiday celebrated throughout the world, although, in some countries, including the United States, Labor Day falls on the first Monday of September. A tradition that, between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, also reflected the changing of the struggles and that was able to engage with the political and social demands of the labor rights moment, not necessarily related only to work but also the conditions.

In Italy, the festival was declared in 1891 and during the twentieth year of fascism it was was to be celebrated on April 21st, coinciding with the so-called "Christmas of Rome". After the end of the world war, in 1945, the celebration was restored maintaining the status as a public holiday. Since 1990 the confederate unions Cgil, Cisl, and Uil, collaborate with the municipality of Rome and organise a great concert to celebrate this anniversary.