The Fight for Labor Rights

By Špela K.

It seems that the only important holidays for students are the ones when the school is closed. This year Labor Day lies on a Sunday, meaning that no student will actually think of the holiday. How many students have actually reflected on the meaning of national holidays?

Labor day commemorates exactly that, labor. May first was designated as ‘Labor Day’ all the way back in 1891 by Second International, an organization of socialist and labor parties. Even though the organization was dissolved exactly a century ago, the holiday to celebrate labor is still celebrated today and is known as ‘International Workers’ Day.’

Labor day has its origins in the eight-hour movement, which promoted shorter work hours so that every workers’ day could be divided into three eight-hour periods. Similar to the medieval monk schedule, labor parties wanted to divide the day so that eight hours would be designated for work, the second for recreation, and the last for sleep. The date of the holiday was decided to commemorate the day of an eight-hour workday protest when four protesters were killed. However, some countries also use the spring day to celebrate the beginning of the warmer half of the year.

In contrast to the typical workday of the nineteenth century, it seems that in today’s society the workday does not end when leaving the office. Telephones, social media, and email have caused workers to have to become available at all hours. It looks like we have thrown always years of protests and demonstrations to earn an eight-hour workday to create the technology to never truly end the workday. And even though all of the uproar in the end of the nineteenth century was a huge caveat, we seem to be repeating our mistakes. There has been countless research done on the productivity of workers who are connected and available 24/7. Being connected all the time significantly affects the work-life balance, and even decreases cohesiveness between colleagues. Furthermore, these work-hours cause employee burnout and a decrease in general productivity.

If we consider these factors in a student’s life, it seems that we are not able to disconnect from our friends or “colleagues” as well. Does our school productivity decrease when we get distracted with WhatsApp chats with out friends? It definitely seems like the mentality of being connected all the time has already changed our lives. But perhaps it would be beneficial for us to disconnect once in a while and get eight hours of recreation, what the labor parties of the nineteenth century fought for.

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