“Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what you will.” 

It might seem preposterous that an eight-hour workday ever had to be fought for. But like every other labor victory in America, this right to a dignified workday was won through collective action and sacrifice from brave workers willing to risk everything. So on this International Workers Day, also known as May Day to most people, we celebrate the workers, and their indomitable spirit as we reflect on the power of using our unified voices to create fair and equitable working conditions for everyone.

The first designation of May Day was on May 1, 1899, commemorating the 1886 Haymarket Affair in which a strike for better working conditions and an eight-hour workday quickly and tragically devolved into an outright riot, in which seven police officers were killed, and between four and eight workers were killed. 

This horrific event became a galvanizing memory for the labor movement in America and May Day has become a symbol for resistance even to this day. Even though the Fair Labor Standards Act would not become law until 1940, the labor movement would fight tooth and nail for better working conditions and unions became stronger, giving us the infrastructure to continue these fights today.

One does not need to look further than the UAW strikes of 2023 to see that collective action and strikes still carry a lot of power in the modern world. By showing the bosses and executives that the machinations of capitalism only move with the power of labor, they were able to achieve tremendous raises and elimination of an unfair tiered hiring system, a historic win for these auto workers.

We must take these lessons from the brave workers who come before us, and use our voices and strength to obtain better retirements for state workers. In the same way that is is vital for a worker to have sixteen hours for their own time, it is critical that workers can retire with dignity and a system that supports them and rewards them for the invaluable service they provide throughout a career.

 For this International Workers Day, let’s celebrate the worker.