International Workers Day, or May Day, is celebrated by workers across the globe every year on May 1. Beginning in the 19th century, this day was chosen by trade unionists to commemorate the contributions and sacrifice of workers. In May 2000 in Los Angeles, activists also rallied for immigrant worker rights, a May Day tradition that has since spread throughout the country.
The UCLA Labor Center, Labor Studies, and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) provide educational activities that allow students to learn about this historic day by participating in local worker and community-based events. This year, we are providing a list of different ways you can honor worker history while respecting physical distancing guidelines. We invite you to explore this important part of labor history and share this list widely.
1. Watch this short video to review May Day history
“Workers of the World Unite and Fight: May Day Explained” details the history behind May Day in the United States.
2. Create and share a video as part of the Los Angeles Digital Day of Action at 6 pm
Join the coalition of community and labor organizations for Los Angeles May Day’s 20th anniversary day of online action. The coalition will honor all workers who are keeping the country going during the COVID-19 emergency — especially doctors, nurses, home health aides, teachers, grocery and warehouse workers, delivery drivers, and field laborers. Join the action at 6 pm on Friday, May 1, by following these steps:
3. Watch May Day 2020: A solidarity stream all day long
Tune in to this eight-hour celebration of International Workers Day to virtually participate in numerous actions throughout the country, including a car caravan in Tennessee demanding worker safety and an Afro-Latinx music celebration.
4. Tell your friends about the new labor studies major at UCLA
In fall 2019, the IRLE and Labor Center launched the labor studies major at UCLA. The Labor Studies Program offers undergraduates an opportunity to learn about the workplace and the social, political, and economic forces that influence it. The program focuses on the labor market, public policy, employment relations, unions, and working-class movements. It also explores issues of race, class, and gender in the workplace. Learn all about the program, and follow Labor Studies on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
5. Listen to the Re:Work podcast
Re:Work is a women-led podcast produced by the UCLA Labor Center that spotlights the voices of workers, immigrants, and people of color. A recent episode, “The Gig’s Up,” focuses on what it’s like to be a woman driving for rideshare companies.
6. Visit the “Solidarity Forever! Graphics of the International Labor Movement” online exhibit
The Center for the Study of Political Graphics curated “Solidarity Forever! Graphics of the International Labor Movement,” featuring posters about the often hidden history of worker resistance against exploitation and dangerous workplace conditions, connecting past actions with current struggles.
7. Learn about LA labor organizing history 1980–present
IRLE’s multimedia collection documents labor history in Los Angeles for the past two decades, including how a new generation of leaders led the growth of the LA labor movement by organizing immigrant, Latino, and African American workers in the service economy. In a series of high-profile strikes, unions took on the power of transnational corporations and won!
8. Learn how May Day became a day to march for immigrant rights
Listen to this segment to learn how May Day evolved into a day to honor both worker and immigrant rights in Los Angeles, and hear from our labor studies professor, Gaspar Rivera-Salgado.
9. Read about your right to unionize
May Day is a great day to learn more about worker rights, unionization, and collective bargaining. “What to Know About Your Rights to Unionize” provides an overview of the National Labor Relations Act, recent organizing efforts in new industries, and your organizing rights in the workplace.
10. Watch the documentary American Factory
American Factory examines the relationship between workers and employers in a globalized economy through the experiences of workers at a Chinese-owned glass assembly plant near Dayton, Ohio. The film premiered at Sundance in 2019 and is now streaming on Netflix.