TODAY, GOOGLE celebrates International Workers’ Day with the very offering that is so often responsible for countless lost hours at work: the holiday Doodle.
To mark May Day, the tech titan features as its home-page logo a hard-hatted woman in overalls hoisting an industrial-looking “Google” sign, a red toolbox at her feet. The logo’s color scheme is somewhat evocative of that steely-eyed World War II cartoon icon, Rosie the Riveter.
May 1 is officially marked by dozens of countries as a national holiday, and is unofficially celebrated by scores more. But it’s not a public holiday in the United States, which explains Google’s decision not to run the Doodle in the U.S. of A.
Over the centuries, May Day has meant everything from a seasonal feast and a summer’s-a-comin’ festival (sometimes with frisky rites of fertility), to parades flaunting a more military prowess — to a religious day to honor St. Joseph the Worker.
International Workers’ Day, though, has its roots in violence, labor strikes — and the push for an eight-hour workday.
And today, more than a century after fatal demonstrations in Chicago sparked the holiday, the Occupy Movement hopes to stage strikes in cities around the globe.
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Although International Workers’ Day isn’t a recognized holiday in the United States, events in the U.S. lit the fuse of its labor roots.
What became known as the Haymarket Affair was sparked May 3, 1886, when Chicago police officers shot to death and wounded striking factory workers. The next evening, “anarchist and socialist labor leaders organized a meeting of workingmen near Chicago's Haymarket Square” to push for better labor conditions, according to the Chicago Historical Society. Police tried to break up the meeting, a bomb was thrown at the police, killing one officer; in the ensuing melee, the society says, at least seven more officers sustained fatal wounds. After months of legal action, four “prominent Chicago anarchists” were hanged for the bombing.
The case fanned the flames of labor-movement actions and reactions the world over.
And now, this May Day, hundreds of thousands of workers, immigrants, students, retirees, and unemployed people across the U.S. and around world will take to the streets, many for the first time,” says the site OccupyWallSt.org (which curiously features an illustration in filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s famed style).
[BEHIND THE SCREENS: How a Google team artist finds inspiration for a Doodle]
Calling this “the first truly nationwide General Strike in U.S. history,” OccupyWallSt.org states that “the Occupy Movement has called for A Day Without the 99% on May 1st.” The event, the site says, “builds on “the international celebration of May Day, past General Strikes in U.S. cities ..., the recent May 1st Day Without an Immigrant demonstrations, the national general strikes in Spain this year, and the ongoing student strike in Quebec.”
More than 20,000 people have “signed up” on the Occupy May Day General Strike Facebook page. Agence France-Presse reports that the strike will target “exploitation, repression and corruption,” citing a statement from the group.
There are also sites devoted to May Day artmaking, from prayer flags to May poles, protest patches to flashmob choirs.
[A TALE OF TWO OCCUPY CARTOONISTS: From arrest to arresting humor, how diverging journalist respond to the movement]