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May 1st, origin and history

May 1st is a public holiday in France and has been since 1947. It is the international workers’ day.

The labor day was born in the United States. On May 1, 1886, a general strike broke out in Chicago. This strike, supported by more than 400,000 workers, led to the total paralysis of many factories.  The workers, like other workers, demanded the 8-hour workday. However, the bosses opposed it and the movement lasted until May 4, 1886.

  • Historical Origins of May Day

  • May Day in the United States


On May 1, 1886, in Chicago, a strike in favor of the 8-hour day broke out, which gave rise, the day after, to a demonstration that was harshly repressed by the American police.

  • May 1st in France

May 1st is more than a simple holiday. It is the international workers’ day, so it is a day of struggle and demands. You may have heard of the Fourmies Massacre, a small town in northern France.

The bosses of the factories in this town had forbidden their workers to demonstrate. However, the demonstration in favor of 8-hour workweeks, which began on May 1, 1891, took a dramatic turn. The day ended in a bloodbath (9 dead and 35 injured).

At the time, the workers demonstrated on May 1 to demand the 8-hour day. In July 1889, many workers’ associations met in Paris to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution and decided to organize, on a fixed date, a demonstration in favor of the 8-hour day. This is how the 1st of May definitively took on its protesting character.

In 1891, the Workers’ International met in Brussels and officially set May 1 as the workers’ holiday.

The origin of the May Day is found in an anarchist movement, but was officially established on April 24, 1941 by the law Belin.

In 1947, on the proposal of the socialist Daniel Mayer, May Day was reinstated as a paid day off in all public and private companies.

It was not until May 1, 1968 that the CGT organized its first large demonstration in the streets of Paris.

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