Labor Day for Pinoys and Americans

By Alex P. Vidal

“Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.”—Karl Marx

THE only holiday when workers all across the Philippines come together to commemorate their hard work and to demand better working condition in on Labor Day, a public holiday celebrated every May 1.

In the United States, Labor Day here is known as the holiday that marks the unofficial end of summer and is celebrated on the first Monday of September each year, or four months after the Labor Day in the Philippines.

The US holiday is rooted in the late 19th century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being, according to the US Department of Labor.

Before it was a federal holiday, Labor Day was recognized by labor activists and individual states. After municipal ordinances were passed in 1885 and 1886, a movement developed to secure state legislation. New York was the first state to introduce a bill, but Oregon was the first to pass a law recognizing Labor Day, on February 21, 1887.

Filipino history writer Nica Jose tells us that the origins of the Philippine Labor Day holiday can be traced back to the late 19th century in the United States.


On May 4, 1886, thousands of workers in Chicago went on strike to demand an eight-hour workday instead of the unreasonably long hours they had to spend toiling away in factories and other similar work settings.

The strike turned violent when a bomb was thrown at police officers, and several workers were killed. This event became known as the Haymarket Affair, and it sparked a worldwide movement for workers’ rights.

Jose recalls that Labor Day was initially celebrated in the Philippines on May 1, 1903. Since then, it’s not a coincidence that Labor Day in the Philippines was made official about two decades after the Haymarket Affair. On April 8, 1908, the Philippine Assembly declared the first day of May as Labor Day as an answer to the plea for better working conditions. The country was still under American colonial rule during this time, and workers were often exploited and treated unfairly.


During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II, Labor Day celebrations were prohibited. However, after the war ended and the Philippines gained independence, it was reinstated.

In the years that followed, this holiday became a platform for workers to demand better wages, benefits, and working conditions, which is in line with why it was declared a big deal of a national holiday in the first place.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, there were several large-scale Labor Day protests, including the 1971 Labor Day protest that saw over 50,000 workers take to the streets of Manila. This was known as the May Day massacre because, despite the masses’ efforts to make the event as peaceful as possible, three protesters were killed in the aftermath.

Jose narrates that the Marcos dictatorship in the 1980s saw a crackdown on protests related to the workers’ welfare, with many activists and trade unionists arrested and detained during the chaos that ensued. However, the end of the dictatorship in 1986 brought renewed hope for workers’ rights in the country.


Labor Day or not, employees must remember they have a right to:

-Not be harassed or discriminated against (treated less favorably) because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 or older) or genetic information (including family medical history).

-Receive equal pay for equal work.

-Receive reasonable accommodations (changes to the way things are normally done at work) that are needed because of their medical condition or religious beliefs, if required by law.

-Expect that any medical information or genetic information that they share with their employer will be kept confidential.

-Report discrimination, participate in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit, or oppose discrimination (for example, threaten to file a discrimination complaint), without being retaliated against (punished) for doing so.

These rights are based on federal employment discrimination laws in the United States.

Other federal, state or local laws may also apply to your business. Federal, state and local government websites may have additional information about these laws.


ACT OF DISOBEDIENCE. According to Erich Fromm, human history begins with man’s act of disobedience which is at the very same time the beginning of his freedom and development of his reason.

MEASLES ALERT. The number of measles cases around the world nearly doubled from 2022 to 2023, researchers say, presenting a challenge to efforts to achieve and maintain elimination status in many countries. Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease that can cause serious health consequences or death.

LOUD ORGASM. Berber monkeys like sex to be loud: 59 percent of the males climax when the female screams during sex. When she stays quite, only 2 percent of males orgasm. (Desutsches Primazentrum Goettingen)

LEFT-HANDED MEN AND WOMEN IN HISTORY: Barrack Obama, Alexander the Great, Babe Ruth, Joanne Woodward, Betty Grable, Pablo Picasso, King George VI, Dick Van Dyke, Benjamin Franklin, Harry S. Truman, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Judy Garland, Charlemagne, to name only a few.

MOST ACTIVE. The 25-34-year-old age group is the most sexually active at 135 times a year, followed by the 21-24-year-olds (133) and 35-44-year-olds (122).

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)


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