Significance of May Day from the 19th Century to the Present Day

When we wake up in the morning of 1st May which we all know is Labour Day, we can’t but be grateful to the labour that has made our lives so easy. It was in this context that in the late 19th century a movement started due to the pathetic conditions of labour in America and Canada that they stirred up the Labour movement leading to the organized protest of labourers who demanded an 8-hour work day and few other demands. This led to the brutal Haymarket affair in 1886 when a massacre happened, claiming several lives due to the opposition of the government and the industrialists and the agitation that occurred on that incident.

Significance of May Day from the 19th Century to the Present Day - May 1st - Labour Day

To commemorate that day as the benchmark of labour’s struggles for their rights and legitimate working conditions, May Day is celebrated all over the world in almost eighty countries today in reverence for the martyrs giving their lives for upholding the rights of the labour and the working class.

This movement started after the mid-19th century and today we stand at the beginning of the 21st century where the situation is quite different due to the constant waves of change in technology as well as landmark revolutions in the management thought and principles. Roundabout at the beginning of the 20th century, it was Fedrick W Taylor who laid the foundation stone of the management thought which was more of industrial engineering.

Following that in the middle of the 20th century, Henry Fayol came up with his behavioral approach to management who laid few of the precepts of management of employees and workers where he advised the management and the employers to treat employees equally with respect. As that was the scientific genesis of management thought much against the practices and the social backdrop of when the Haymarket affair happened, we have a come a long way till today when the scenario is entirely different.

Although one can still argue that the working hours of labours and the white and blue collar employees might not have decreased but beyond doubt, the approach and the viewpoint of the employers have definitely gone through a sea change.  Right from the days of Hawthorne experiment by Henry Fayol, the approach and the outlook towards the working population started changing when the seed was sown for a more humanitarian approach when Abraham Maslow came up with a more humanistic approach of management with his theory of “Hierarchy of Needs” in the mid-20th century.

Subsequently, the Human Resource Development approach started gaining popularity in the industry wherein the employees were treated as the resources of the company. The academic development of different psychological and management theories also influenced the legislation and more worker-friendly laws were also framed in several countries across the globe. There came into existence multi-national companies in the FMCG and other sectors who are mostly equal opportunity employers with Human Resource and Personnel policies in tune with their diversities and social and cultural nuances across geographies.

Then came the IT revolution where we saw the competition stiffening and the disruptive technologies siphoning the old technology companies. These companies overtook the world in just a few years and today the world is on the threshold of constant change with its effect on the companies, markets, and products affecting the lives of the employees too.

In a nutshell, the scenario has changed diametrically where companies treat employees with respect and consider them as useful resources as it’s mostly the human capital and innovation that they thrive on, these days. The human resource approach is more relevant today than any other time in history. Today, the companies give the advantage of enterprising employees to become the shareholder of the companies with workers’ participation in management in vogue in many organizations.

In such a sea change that our civilization and the industry has gone through, even today Labour Day has a significance apart from paying homage to the struggle which was fought by the workers for their rights. Today, the employers and the management acknowledge the contribution of labour in society. They admit that it is labour that upholds our lives and although May Day is a day observed as a mark of respect to the Martyrs of the Hay market incident, the significance of it is probably changing. It is slowly taking the meaning which hints at the universal labour that upholds humanity and civilization. Whatever it is, nothing moves without labour. Leaving the history and the evolution of management, we can always say that as work is worship, Labour Day is the homage to all the labour on whose contribution and sacrifice our civilization stands.

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