The first of May in the United States is not a holiday like in most other countries. In other countries all over the world, there will be labor day celebrations and political demonstrations to mark the different conflicts which pit workers against labor unions and governments in place. In America, Labor day was moved to the first Monday in September in the 19th century to avoid seeing these events spill over into the country from different radical political parties and trade unions which were beginning to rally under President Grover Cleveland.
Few people observe International Labor Day although many of the Occupy Movement has not lost its steam to commemorate the international labor movement. In any case, there are no “official” national holidays in the States as most days are “statutory” or up to the employer to attribute paid holidays. This is why so many people work on “holidays” in the United States without necessarily observing the celebrations surrounding that particular day. Shopping malls and other downtown retail stores usually only close on major public holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas although we have seen recently that some stores open on those days to take advantage of peoples’ days off to sell products…which is why “shopping” in the United States has become a major pastime!
Labor day in the United States has become synonymous with the end of the summer and beginning of a new school year which usually takes place the day after. Picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, beach and lake activities and public art events are more of the norm on this day when very often political concerns are the last thing people tend to think about.
In San Diego there is a relatively new organization called “Activist San Diego/Networking for Social Justice” and for the second year, the members are putting on a 2 day ‘Workers Film Festival’ the day after the International Labor Day. Classic and contemporary films and videos dealing with labor issues will be shown to make people more aware of industrial workers’ struggles in Southern California including Baja California and its ‘capital’ Tijuana one of the most violent cities in the world. They have partnered with Media Arts Center to make the voices of the working class heard in one of the richest regions on the earth. One of the documentaries they will probably be showing is Jacob Kornbluth’s Inequality For All in which UC Berkley Professor and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is given center stage to talk about what has happened to the middle class in America. A must show for everyone!