Marti, Mai 1, 2007, 11:27 AM 

The Day of Labor that did not kill anybody
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In the last decades, 1st of May is not perceived anymore as the International Labor Day. Now, Labor Day seems something old, obsolete and not in accordance with the modern trends. Now, it is more common to go out to a beer or to a barbeque, throwing out the litter in the forest or to go the seaside and sleep on the beach.

The 1st of May is now just an ordinary day assimilated to a Sunday, a day off. If elections are coming, it is the best way to grab some free beers and some stakes from each candidate. Everyone’s happy for the spring arrival, everybody is happy for a day of not going to the office.

Twenty years ago things were different here. There were big parades celebrating Labor Day. Most of the people were there because they were forced to. They were forced to hold posters to express their attachment to a Communist Party based on workers’ labor.

Now it is quite normal to reject anything related to that gray era. Anything related to Labor is associated with communism. I don’t know why many people associate this former Labor Day celebration with the unemployment and the right to work stipulated in the National codes. Maybe this was inoculated by the communist propaganda in their continuous fight against western economies.

In fact, the origins of this celebration are in... United States. In 1884 a convention of The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada set May 1, 1886 as the date by which the eight hour day work would become law. The celebration of Labor Day has its origins in the eight hour day work movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

Talking about the 8-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement (even if the communists imposed 48 hours per week) this had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life and imposed long hours and poor working conditions. With working conditions unregulated, the health, welfare and morale of working people suffered. The exploitation of child labor was common. The working day could range from 10 hours up to 16 hours for six days a week.

Nowadays, the situation is not different, both in Eastern Europe and in UK and US. It is true, we all have now a paper stipulating 8 working hours per day, 40 hours per week. The same paper stipulates no more than 8 hours overtime that should be paid by employer. Unfortunately, it is just a paper called employment contract. That’s all.

Nothing has changed from the situation as 200 years ago. We still work effectively up to 16 hours per day, even 7 days a week. The employment contract and the Labor Code were drafted just to be breached by the employers. The community outside multinational Companies does not care about us. We are often told we do this only for money and that the Labor did not kill anyone.

Unfortunately, this is not a valid statement anymore. Nine days ago, Raluca, a young manager from a multinational Company in Romania has died after physical exhaustion. This is not a singular case. There were also cases in Greece and US. Everybody started to blame the employers, but nobody searched for the interdependencies of the corporatist system. The case is perceived like a singular Company exploiting its employees that should be punished. Things are not like this. The entire system is overloaded, you depend also on customers and suppliers time which are also as busy as you are. There is a chain of overdue tasks propagating each other with an uncontrollable speed.

For the corporate guys, the 1st of May will remain as the end of busy season, the day when we celebrate the survival after a long busy period (usually from November to April in the Finance and Audit field). For Raluca, it is too late. In Chicago, several people died 130 years ago for an 8 hours day work on paper. Maybe we all wonder how many people should die for a more human working day. And this time, not only on paper.


  1. George Presura

    Not true.
    Nobody fires you if not working more than 40 hours a week without paying you overtime.
    You may stay overtime because you like to, you want to be fair with the employer, but not because the boss asked you specifically to do so.

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