Workers around the world are celebrating International Workers’ Day today, 1st May 2019. This is the day set aside to celebrate the fighting spirit of masses of workers and oppressed people. The globally celebrated holiday advocates against the exploitation imposed by capitalism.
The celebration dates back to 1st May 1886 in the United States. On that day in history, the Organised Labour Unions called a nationwide strike. They staged the strike to demand an eight-hour working day. This protest saw the death of about eight workers who later became known as the Haymarket Martyrs. The day later became a holiday in 1889 as an international day of solidarity.
Microsoft employees have also now chosen to support Chinese tech workers who are protesting terrible overtime work culture. They have used their platform to pledge solidarity to the workers expected to carry out 12-hour workdays with just a day off every week.
996.icu for May Day
Tech workers in China, in March 2019, first published the “996.icu” project aimed at highlighting the sector’s illegally cruel work schedule. The 996 stood for “9 am to 9 pm for 6 days a week”. The ICU bit refers to the possibility of ending up in the intensive care unit of the hospital out of mental exhaustion.
Despite these, the founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, previously hailed the 996 work culture as a huge blessing for the country. However, the extended work culture is now being resisted outside China.
On Monday, 29th April 2019, software engineers from Google, Facebook, Microsoft and some other tech companies signed a letter of support to Chinese workers. They added the letter to the 996.icu project on GitHub.
The letter stated that workers of GitHub and Microsoft stood in solidarity with tech workers in China. 100 tech workers co-signed the letter. It also warned that some internet firms in China were already looking to censor the protests.
According to reports, Chinese domestic browsers like Alibaba and Tencent have already restricted access to the 996.icu repository on its web browsers after it went viral. It went on to warn users that it contained malicious and illegal content.
This is what May Day is about. It is about workers from different ends of the world standing with each other against injustice.
This the story of these workers. What is your May Day story?