Three Quick Takes on May
(While You Run the Clock)
Eight-hour shift? Check. Overtime pay? Check. Banned child labor? Check that too. What started as a Dionisyan fête became an affirmation of humanity in post-Industrial Revolution years. Pity that First of May now is mostly an occasion to mourn the demise of unions and workers’ rights.
But don’t get discouraged; the original Labor Day is still big everywhere but in the U.S. It may still fulfill its original purpose, of reminding powers that be that employees are well, people too. Check for today’s rallies around the world. Meanwhile, though, we’re keeping the distress call, just in case.
May 1 marked a pagan celebration of the season’s first crop. Free from the religious guilt that singed human sense of joy for good, just consider how hard ancient people partied with moonlight bonfires, sensual dances, and songs of forward gratitude for a bountiful harvest.
Cut to 1886: U.S. workers held a strike demanding enforcement of an eight-hour workday resolution, established two years earlier by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. When police fired at an unarmed crowd at the Chicago’s McCormick Reaper Works Factory, killing four, and arrested union leaders and anarchists, the modern organized labor movement was born.
Mayday, the distress call, on the other hand, has nothing to do with what’s stated above. It’s an anglicized version of the French word m’aidez which means help me. No wonder it’s a keeper. But let’s clear up once and for all an enduring, albeit, senseless query: no, mayonnaise has nothing to do with it. Neither it’s advisable listening to the Bee Gees‘ song at this time. Or ever, for that matter. Enjoy.