May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, got its start in the United States in the mid-1880s. Although socialists and anarchists would later claim May Day as their own radical holiday, it was building trades workers – carpenters, bricklayers, painters, and the like –who first targeted May 1st as the day to voice their demands for an eight hour day. The choice was not arbitrary: In the late 19th century, May 1st was the start of the new contract year, a day already associated with strikes for higher wages, shorter hours, and improved conditions.

In fact it was carpenter Gabriel Edmonston who offered a resolution at the 1884 meeting of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions stating that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886, and that we shall recommend to labor organizations . . . that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named."  MORE

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