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May 1, 2024 22 mins

For many of us, May Day conjures images of Spring Festivals, but also a day dedicated to workers' rights, known as International Workers' Day. The two are related, and shine a light on so many intersectional issues that continue to be important.

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hey, this is Anny and Samantha and welcome to stuff.
I've never told you a protection of iHeartRadio. Oh no,
I wrote the date wrong. Already off to a terrible
start as we record this. Tomorrow is May one, twenty

twenty four.

Speaker 2 (00:28):
It's gonna be May and welcome.

Speaker 1 (00:30):
Oh yes, Oh, Star Wars month is upon as memes
like that. Yes, but May first is also otherwise known
as May Day and or International Workers Day. And we
were at the beginning of every month we try to
put together our calendar, and I was like, I'm sure

there's something with May Day, and there is. However, I
will say we have talked about some of this before.
We've never specifically folks on it, but we do have
past episodes on Labor Day. Although I think it was
fashion related if I'm remembering correctly. This was way back in,
Like Kristen, I.

Speaker 2 (01:09):
Was like, I don't know, but I don't remember this
conversation at all.

Speaker 1 (01:12):
Oh no, it was it was before us, But there
was one we did that was related to Labor Day.
But anyway, we also did When Women Organize, which was
something that we're going to touch on in here, and
also we did women in Unions and We've done a
couple of like women powerful women in unions, so I've
got a lot of stuff around this. This is going

to be a bit of a shorter episode, but it's twisty.
I wasn't expecting this because it actually is related to
the holiday May Day, which I have never celebrated. Have
you celebrated?

Speaker 2 (01:47):
Absolutely not. That's such a foreign idea to me. Again, I,
like I said, I told you earlier. I was like,
isn't that just more a European thing? Like I don't
know much about it, and I really didn't associate that
too labor or like any of those international labor days.
So also go, okay, well.

Speaker 1 (02:05):
A very interesting story as to how they are related.
I never have celebrated it. I think of Midsimar of
the movie when I think of May Day, which I'm
sure is not what many people who celebrate it would like,
because that is a horror movie. What we should talk
about on this show, have we not. I don't think

we've we've done a specific episode on it. I think
we've mentioned it. But I do find the different takes
generally men and women have on that movie fascinating because
I've been so like, wow, all this gas lighting. And
I've had many male friends like gaslighting. What oh in yes,

but okay, so yeah, let's let's get this festival out
of away. For a long time, may Day has referred
to a spring festival involving flowers in a maypole that
herald's the coming of spring. Going back to ancient Rome,
may Day fell in the middle of a festival called Feralia,
celebrating Flora, who was the goddess of flowers, spring and youth.

When the Romans arrived in the British Isles, they brought
this festival with them, where it lined up with the
Celtic holiday Bill ten. I hope I didn't butcher that
they combined similar elements to create may Day, celebrated on
May first, and by medieval times may Day was a
popular holiday throughout Europe.

Speaker 2 (03:38):
Is that the way at the beginning of this Scottish
festival for the Outlander where she gets sucked into time?
Do you know what I'm talking about?

Speaker 1 (03:45):
Have you ever seen this?

Speaker 2 (03:47):
If I say this and I'm wrong, people are gonna
be really pissed because people love that movie. I like
or Nut Show and I like it too. But they
have this whole festival where it's just supposed to be
like witches. They come together and go into the island
around this one rock and can but they dance very
like they have like crowns. I believe in white dresses
and enchant. It sounds like that, but I could be

very damn wrong.

Speaker 1 (04:10):
It's very similar, as I haven't seen either this or
a May Day celebration, but to me it sounds right
because this holiday and listeners please write in if you
celebrate it, because people do celebrate. It still involves people
going out a Maying in the early morning to gather
flowers and decorate for the celebration, and there were games, dances,

and many held pageants to crown a may queen, a
woman who is basically the overseer of all of the festivities.
The may pole was often the centerpiece of these festivals.
It was a birch pole that was brought in by
an ox that had flowers decorated with flowers, and it
was adorned with streamers for dancers to hold on to

as they made their way around the pole.

Speaker 2 (04:56):
Okay, yes, the sam Hayne.

Speaker 1 (05:00):
Oh they are related though.

Speaker 2 (05:02):
Are they Okay? So that is how happens in October.

Speaker 1 (05:05):
Apparently, Yes, but so sam Hayne and may Day are
like the opposite. So sam Hayn is Halloween is fall, okay,
and then may Day is like when sam Hayne is over,
the spring is coming. But they're supposed to compliment each other.

Speaker 2 (05:23):
So don't get me. I just knew it was very
pretty festival that happened in light dresses, and they seem
to dance with flowers.

Speaker 1 (05:29):
Let me know if I'm incorrect, because that's just from
the articles that I've read, but again, this has not
been my experience growing up. Apparently, another tradition was to
make people give baskets with flowers and treats, leave them

at the doorstep, knock or otherwise alert the person inside
to their presence, and then run and if the receiver
of the basket caught the giver, they owed them a kiss,
which I'm assuming could be very platonic because the story
I read, the anecdotal story I read, was like a
young girl and her best friend, so like, I don't
think it had to be romantic, although there were plenty

of accounts of it being sort of a young people
disappearing in the woods type of festival. I know, and
I read in some places that the basket is meant
to represent women's fertility, and the poll is meant to
represent male fertility. And the taller the pole the better,
which did give me a chuckle.

Speaker 2 (06:33):
Is that why just the girls wrapping around it?

Speaker 1 (06:36):
I believe. So Samantha, just check it, just check in, yeah,
and then you get your may Queen. It's very interesting. Also,
I would love if someone would write in about this.
I read in Hawaii lay Day, which is kind of
something that came around this. The celebration focused on making
and giving ways started in nineteen twenty nine, so write

in let us know. All right. So at first, colonial
Americans were very wary of may Day, allegedly even breaking
up a May Day celebration and sending the person who
threw it back to England. There's like a poem about it,
and I think it's re enacted at May Day celebrations,
so it would it left an impression just because they

kind of associated it, sort of like you, Samantha's a
very European thing, like we don't do that. But may
Day did eventually gain traction in the US in the
late eighteen hundreds, but in two very different ways, though
they both revolved around the rights of workers. One of
these movements was composed of people from well off and
influential families, and at the time, this group of well

off folks were looking at the migrants and immigrants coming
into US cities with concern. They were worried that the
work would exhaust them and that they would spend their
free time on what they viewed as things that were
void of educational value and empty of American values and
heavy quotes, things like amusement parks are carnivals. Considered this

a waste, so they thought they'd bring something back that
they associated with white Anglo Saxon values, May Day, the holiday.
So in the eighteen seventies, May Day celebrations started taking
place on campuses of women's colleges. Primarily, at first, the
women would do the traditional dances while wearing the traditional

white They might reenact this play I mentioned. To spread
the practice, the well off introduced a Maying Again and
May Day festivals to American elementary schools.

Speaker 2 (08:38):
The other group set about making May Day a day
reserve for laborers. After industrialization and the Civil War, workers
started organizing into unions. Hey the connotation of May Day
took on a new meaning in eighteen eighty six when
on May first, two hundred thousand workers in Chicago and
other cities went on strike while pushing for an eight

hour day. The strikes became violent and yes, eventually earned
the name Haymarket Affair. Many were wounded and several died.
And yes, we do talk about it a little bit
in this in the book with a hay Market Who
did this? And yes, there are actual Haymarket organizations today
they named after this.

Speaker 1 (09:22):
Yes, yes, and we did talk about it in When
One More Women Women Organized that episode two, which is
a two parter if I'm remembering correctly, But it was
a whole. It was a big deal. It was a
big deal and there was a lot of moving pieces
in it. So definitely go check those things out with
Lucy Parsons. That's the name that we know with this,
so yes, hey, Lucy Parsons. So to commemorate what happened

on this state, the International Socialist Conference declared May first
as an international holiday highlighting labor, now known as International
Workers Day in eighteen eighty nine. That was officially signed
into US law in eighteen ninety five, or the eight
hour workday itself went into effect in the US in
nineteen sixteen, although I read in other places it was
way earlier than that. I wonder if that was just
kind of the federal level.

Speaker 2 (10:10):
Right it intervened.

Speaker 1 (10:12):
Yes, However, during the Red Scare and the Cold War
in the US, this made a celebration International Workers Day,
I should say, drew a lot of ire and suspicion.
And in nineteen fifty eight, President Eisenhower signed a resolution
that labeled May First as Loyalty Day, claiming that it
would be quote a special day for the reaffirmation of

loyalty to the United States of America and for the
recognition of the heritage of American freedom.

Speaker 2 (10:42):
Why is this a constant where I swear they take
something and redo it for their own sake. It's a
smart play, but it's really flipping annoying, like taking words
that were about racial equality or you know, like equity

and then they like, no, that means they're trying to
be too liberal. And then they take this whole like
if they do social like they do the Social Scare,
the Red Scare in a different format, just what is
the conversation is, like what's happening? But they're really good
at it. It's really annoying too.

Speaker 1 (11:20):
It is, it is, and it's really it's so many
times I'll read things like this and I get why
they worked, but I'm also like, it's so silly and transparent.
It's a loyalty Day.

Speaker 2 (11:32):
Yes, it's a little lazy work though that ends up
overtaking that conversation. It's literally nothing original about it. They
just retake it and rebranded. It's the whole I'm rubber,
you're glue.

Speaker 1 (11:42):
Yeah. With terminology yeah, and definitely like those kind of
hard term those words that get thrown about with patriotism
or well, if you don't support Loyalty Day, then you
terrible communists. Get out, get out right. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (12:00):
So other countries had groups and organizations that adopted International
Workers Day, such as the International Socialist Congress in France,
who resolved to mark May first, eighteen ninety with quote
great International Demonstration. Other European entities followed suit, later combining
the demonstrations with festival like elements, to the point that
within a decade, so many Europeans had adopted the holiday

that Americans started to associate with European socialism as opposed
to American unionism. Some unions wanted to avoid any association
with radicalism, stopped celebrating May Day and pivoted to Labor
Day in September instead. Again the seventh A lot is
such an interesting tactic.

Speaker 1 (12:41):
It's kind of it's sad, but it's kind of comical
to me that Americans were suspicious of May Day the
festival because it was too European, and then they were like, well,
maybe we'll go back to that. But then they were
like unions and fight for work and rights and all this,
and then Europeans started doing doing it. They were like,

oh no, let's pulled back here.

Speaker 2 (13:07):
We can't be seen that that's too much.

Speaker 1 (13:10):
It became too European. It's just.

Speaker 2 (13:14):
I mean it kind of there's so many things that
I'm like, yeah, it makes sense to this mind frame
of like we need equality. Oh no, other people to
get We don't want to be anything like them, like
we want to be like wait what.

Speaker 1 (13:29):
It's just like strange today. I didn't know this. I
didn't know May Day started in the US. I associated
with Europe right, right, I associate International Workers Day outside
of the US.

Speaker 2 (13:44):
Right. No, no, no, we don't want to associate with you.
We want our own things, so we'll give this to you.
Scraze that from history, please.

Speaker 1 (13:52):
Right, Oh my gosh. Well, in Europe, especially beginning in
the run up to World War One, May Day, our
International Worker's Day, became a place of anti war protest
and general political upheaval. The history gets pretty messy. I
think that would be a whole podcast separately if we
wanted to do that, in probably a different podcast than
this one. But during World War two, for instance, the

Nazis tried to co opt it in Germany, calling it
like National Worker's Day or something, leading to folks starting
and uprising some countries outright bandit. Other countries have also
used Mayday for political protest. As of today, International Workers
Day is an officially recognized holiday in sixty six countries

and unofficially in a bunch more so you can look
it up. A lot of amazing things have happened, a
lot of devastating things have happened on Mayday, but a
lot of countries have adopted it all right, fitting back, okay.

In the nineteen hundreds, European style May Day celebrations, as
in the festival, were still popular in the US, but
they never achieved displacing entertainment like arcades and amusement parks,
oh as that it was intended, and eventually these celebrations faded,
although I did read people do still celebrate in the US,
so again, listeners, let us know, but millions around the

world do still mark International Workers Day. So while women
were involved in these strikes, and we've spoken about some
specific powerful examples as mentioned, a lot of the coverage
was on men. Since women are white, women particularly were
confined to the domestic sphere, which is something we always
have to keep in mind around this conversation about women

in work. But several instances did bring women to the forefront,
including New York City's nineteen eleven Triangle shirtwaist factory incident
that resulted in one hundred and forty six deaths, mostly
of women and girls. This is one example in the US,
and there are numerous, numerous, numerous ones in this country
and around the world. So all of this is important

for a number of reasons. When it comes to intersectional feminism.
The gender pay gap still exist is worse for women
of color, sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, racial discrimination, LGBTQ plus
discrimination discrimination against disabled folks. Similar things exist around the
world in various forms. And to various extents, we saw

these things get worse during the pandemic. We've seen the
numbers go the wrong way in a lot of instances.
And remember the US currently doesn't really have maternity or
paternity to leave, like, we don't have great healthcare that
many of us have to get through our work. Accessible
childcare is still out of reach for a lot of people.

So it's important. And this all did start. This May
Day International Workers Day thing started with a push for
an eight hour work day, but recent surveys have found
women routinely work longer than eight hours, and much of
it is unpaid, unrecognized labor. And that's like at work,
that doesn't even count at home all of that other stuff.

And as we mentioned in previous episodes, two women in
marginalized folks are and have been at the forefront of
movements to change things. Even as we're seeing rollbacks of
things put in place around child labor, which we were
just talking about for instance, Samantha, or huge companies leveraging
their massive sources to squash attempts at unionizing. There are

people still fighting and these things are important, and we
have in our own company, we've been working towards the
union for over two years, two years I think, and
it's just been really a lot of pushback, but a
huge shout out to our bargaining committee who has really

been fighting even when they meet so much resistance and
wrangling all of us because we're all over the place,
we do all kinds of different things, and.

Speaker 2 (18:12):
Right, it's been interesting because the shift in constant rotation,
because of the way that people, the higher ups in
execs and sides are stretching this out, and it's causing
people like I can't imagine. I actually I can't imagine

because I think I stepped foot in it for like
a split second. I was like, oh, this is a
lot of work, and it is a lot a lot
of work, and so we definitely want to shut out
to those who are fighting that fight, and we do
support you.

Speaker 1 (18:45):
Yeah, for sure, it's.

Speaker 2 (18:47):
Been interesting, and yeah, just unions are not a bad thing,
and the fact that people are trying to squash it
says a lot.

Speaker 1 (18:54):
It does. It does, And just like with anything, of course,
there's been examples of like, oh that wasn't great, that
one person wasn't great, but that doesn't mean like the
whole thing is bad.

Speaker 2 (19:05):
There's this whole level of who are the players and
when it comes when may come back to find it,
there's a lot that are bad players because they're planted there.

Speaker 1 (19:16):
Yeah, and you know those things get so much attention,
but again, these are there's so many people who've been
doing this work who are not getting any attention, who
have been doing it, And personally, it just frustrates me
so much when I'll hear someone who's anti union be
so excited about the weekend are being done with work,
and I'm like, you know that was like unions that

did that right, right, We didn't used to have those
things right And.

Speaker 2 (19:43):
Just as a reminder, this was all Like we've talked
about this. I think it's just a constant conversation, especially
when you work in intersectionality, that rhetoric and media has
really really made people scared of things because it is
not beneficial to those who were already power. Like that's
the constant reminder of like, when the bad things happen,

it wasn't what you thought, and when you uncovered who
was at the root of it and why it was there,
it is because people who are in power were scared
of losing something because they wanted to keep that power.
And honestly, it's all this level of like it's not
that people are asking not to work as much or
whatever whatnot, it's just being fairly compensated or treated fairly

or able to actually afford uh And being told that
when you're family, which is a conversation we hear a
lot for a lot of business practices, especially in the US,
which is a fun rhetoric. And then being told but
you are really expendable and easily replaceable, just like you're
supposed to treat them like the family, but you are
not going to be treated as such.

Speaker 1 (20:47):
Yes, you should be grateful that you're.

Speaker 2 (20:48):
Yes here, yes, which I was actually told that. In
my government job. We were like, hey, we get pay
almost minimum wage and we would like to help these kids,
and part of these kids maybe buying them a lunch
while having conversation, and you're telling us that you are
not going to compensate us, and then also you should
we should be grateful for having a job. If we
don't want that to get out. We're like when we

were told at a conference and we were.

Speaker 1 (21:11):
Like, oh, okay, okay, cool.

Speaker 2 (21:16):
That was my government job, So then we absolutely could
not unionize, and especially in the state of Georgia.

Speaker 1 (21:23):
Yep, I laugh because it's scary. Yeah, yeah, So if
anyone has any thoughts about this, if you've worked on
a bargaining committee, if anyone's planning on protesting, please be safe.
We're thinking of you because it is a big lot
of things usually happen on May Day.

Speaker 2 (21:44):
And thank you.

Speaker 1 (21:44):
Yeah yeah, and thanks to the people who've done this
work and at our own company, to the people who
are doing this work. But yes, all right, here we go,
may here we go. Yes. If you were to contact
those listeners, you can our emails Stephania mom Stuff at
iHeartMedia dot com. You can find us on Twitter, mom

Stuff podcast, or on Instagram and TikTok at stuff We'll
Never Told You, or on YouTube. We also have a
tea public store and a book you can get wherever
you get your books. Thanks as always too, our super
producer Christina are executive pducer My and your contributor Joey.
Thank you and thanks to you for listening. Stuff Never
Told You is production of iHeartRadio. For more podcasts from
my Heart Radio, you can check out the heart Radio app,
Apple podcast or wherever you listen to your favorite shows,

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