May Day Is Labor Day around the World

By Kate Adler, Director of Library Services 

Today is an important day. It’s May 1st, May Day or International Worker’s Day — a celebration that dates to the 19th century. Did you know that while May 1st is not celebrated officially in the U.S. as Labor Day, it commemorates U.S. workers who mobilized and marched for basic worker rights in Chicago in 1886? 

The fight continues today, only fueled by the current COVID-19 crisis. In the 19th century, folks in the United States organized and fought for labor-free weekends and an 8-hour workday. Today workers continue to fight for safety and fair working conditions, in the form of personal protective gearpaid sick leaveuniversal health care The moment is ripe for change. Consider the many local and national initiatives to secure bill of rights for essential workers. 

For many, May 1st is a day to celebrate labor unions, workers and acts of social and political resistance. We have heard a lot this year about our frontline and essential workers. It is important to honor and acknowledge their work sustaining hospitals and health care services, farms factories, grocery stores, transportation, schools. The list is long, and our society depends on all of them. But May Day reminds us that working people deserve something other than tribute; they deserve and demand rights as the hashtags #supportnotapplause and #youclapformenow make clearFor that reason, May Day is also a time to recognize and name exploitationto celebrate resistance, mutual aid, and the hard work that goes into building a better, safer, fairer society.  

If you are among the many working on the front lines, we thank you. And if you are among the many working from remote safety who cheer frontline workers every night at 7pm, we thank you as well. We honor not only the work itself, but also the ongoing fight for justice for all workers. 

May Day Research Tip 

By Natalia Sucre, Digital and Instruction Services Librarian 

Research isn’t only about writing papers for school. It’s also about gathering the information we need to take action on social change and exert our participant role in democracy. Right now, many of our elected representatives, supported by pro-labor organizations, are creating and introducing bills to address the worker disparities that COVID-19 highlights. How to keep up with all those bills? How to know when to pressure our representatives to vote for the causes we support, how to hold them accountable for not doing enough? The resources below can help. 

Local Bills: The websites of all local legislative bodies allow you to search for bills by title, but also –more kindly– by keywords. This allows you to review a bill‘s sponsorship and status. Keywords such as COVID, “essential workers,” eviction will retrieve the bills now in play on worker rights. Check out these tools: New York City Council Legislative Research Center, New York State Senate Advanced Legislation Search, and the New York State Assembly Bill Search 

Only the New York State Senate has a bill status alert, which you can sign up for on any bill web page. Once you have the bill title though, you can always sign up for a Google alert to track its progress. For more information on tracking New York State and City legislative action, see this guide from the NYC Bar Association. 

National Bills: Keeping up with the status of bills introduced in the U.S. Senate and House is also quite easy. The Library of Congress provides an email alert system on bills. You will need to create an account, but in return you can get notification not only on specific bills of interest, but also categories such as “Most viewed bills” and “Bills on the Senate or House Floors” on any given day.  

So, more work for those able to work from home during this continuing pause!