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May Day '81

May Day '81 Event Button Museum
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May Day '81 button back Event Button Museum
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Jobs Peace Equality May Day '81
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Red button with black text. A black illustration of worker is in the left corner and a white flag with red text is on the right side of the button. 

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International Workers' Day, known as Labor Day or May Day, celebrated on May 1, is a celebration of organized labor and the working class. However, this holiday and date is sometimes used for protests and demonstrations around the world centered on the rights of the working class. While the day was initially conceived as a day for organized labor and working class individuals to protest around the world, in the first decades of the twentieth century, the labor movement continued to sponsor parades and other events but on a less regular basis than in the past, with some cities going years at a time between marches, only holding them at moments of crisis. 

On May 1, 1981, millions around the world observed May Day from Moscow’s annual procession through Red Square to a tea ceremony for model laborers hosted by Taiwan President Chiang Ching-kuo. Other demonstrations that year included a march of 50,000 in Warsaw, events at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and demonstrations in Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, Spain, and Iran. In Los Angeles, a march sponsored by the Revolutionary Communist Party went through downtown over to MacArthur Park and back again with no arrests or violence.


Drake Reitan, M. (2017, April 30). MacArthur Park reds. KCET.

Foner, P. S. (1986). May Day: A short history of the International Workers' holiday, 1886–1986. International Publishers.

Musgrove, D. (1981, May 2). May Day parade march, 1981 [Photograph]. Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA, United States.

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