During the Industrial Revolution, workers were often subjected to grueling workdays of 12–16 hours, six or seven days a week, with no paid vacation or sick leave. Women and children were also forced to work in dangerous conditions, and accidents were common.
After many years, sick and tired of these conditions, workers organized and went on strike to demand better treatment from factory management. On May 1st, 1886, tens of thousands of workers across the United States went on strike to demand an eight-hour workday.
In Chicago, workers gathered in Haymarket Square to protest and listen to speeches from labour leaders. Unfortunately, the peaceful protest turned violent when police arrived and attempted to disperse the crowd.
A bomb was thrown into the crowd, killing several police officers and civilians. In the ensuing chaos, police opened fire on the crowd, killing and injuring a lot of people.
The tragedy of the Haymarket Affair became a turning point in the labour movement’s push for better working conditions and workers’ rights.
In response to the growing labour movement, the United States, the UK, and other European countries began working on labour laws to protect workers and ensure fair treatment in the workplace.
In 1889, the International Socialist Congress declared May 1st to be International Workers’ Day to commemorate the events of the Haymarket Affair.