Worker’s day is deeper than we think

Worker’s day is usually known as the day set aside to celebrate workers all over the world and appreciate them for their hard work and contribution towards growth of the organization they work in. So on the first day of May, workers are given the day off from work. They are given bonuses, gifts and are appreciated in several other ways. In Nigeria, the story is no different but how exactly did Worker’s Day start? What does this day truly signify? What brought about this day that is widely recognized in almost all parts of the world? Let’s dive into that.

In the 19th century, a newly established Labour Union in America was not happy with how long people had to work per day. Farmers, miners, factory staff and all sorts of workers were working as long as 10- 12 hours per day. They decided that 8 hours was a long enough time for anyone to work per day and be paid. This Labour Union started gaining supporters from workers from different walks of life even though their appeal was not granted by the congress. More people began to gain awareness of labour policies and changes that must be made. 

Although the Labour Union advocated for peaceful dialogue and advised its supporters to refrain from violence, a protest/strike organized by railroad workers turned violent and several people lost their lives. The lives lost include two union men and seven police officers. It was indeed a tragic event and was later referred to as The Haymarket Riot.

The Labour’s Union request continued to be rejected in America for many many years and unionism was banned. Finally, in 1933 when the Congress under the leadership of President Franklin Roosevelt enacted the National Industrial Recovery Act to  help America recover from the Great Depression. This act gave room for the establishment of the eight hours workday. However, prior to this development, May 1st was declared as Worker’s day during the first international congress of socialist parties held in Paris, France. The aim of this declaration was to promote unity and solidarity amongst workers worldwide. 

In Nigeria, Worker’s Day has been marked every first day of May since it was recognized as a public holiday by the the People Redemption Party of Kano State. This holiday is being marked in Nigeria but most people including workers are not aware of its origin and true meaning. In present day Nigeria, people are still made to work for more than eight hours per workday. In other cases, unionism is discouraged and trade unions across the nation receive very little support. All these circumstances defeat the true spirit of worker’s day.

We believe that if we work together as workers and as good citizens of our country Nigeria, the rights of workers can be respected and upheld. Happy Worker’s Day.


About Our Founder
Fr. Godswill Agbagwa

Godswill Uchenna Agbagwa is a Catholic priest and a social ethicist. He was born in Umueze Amaimo, a small village in Ikeduru LGA of Imo State to Mr. Charlyman Chikamnele Agbagwa and Mrs. Evelyn Chinyere Agbagwa of blessed memory.