Originally sparked by the Haymarket Massacre of 1886, when police cracked down on peaceful protesters rallying for an eight-hour work day in Chicago, International Workers’ Day has enjoyed a bit of a revival in the last several years. In 2006, activists organized “a day without an immigrant,” and immigrants’ rights actions have been a big focus of the day ever since. A couple years ago, Occupy activists attempted a nationwide general strike.
On october. 24, 1975, 90% of Icelandic women went on strike, refusing to do any work outside or inside the home — taking “the day off” from paid labor, housework, and child care. It was the largest demonstration in the nation's history and shut down the entire country. Airports were closed, schools were closed, and hospitals couldn't function. The country was basically shut down. An estimated 90 percent of Icelandic women participated and 25,000 — a tenth of the population — gathered at a rally in Reykjavik. The strike had an immediate and lasting impact. The following year, Iceland's Parliament (now half women) passed a law guaranteeing women equal pay and paid maternity leave. Four years later, Iceland elected the world's first female President. And today, Iceland has the highest gender equality in the world. The day was later remembered as “the long Friday.”
More than a century after the Haymarket Massacre, many American workers still don’t even have an eight-hour (paid) work day. And almost four decades after Iceland’s women proved how indispensable their under- and unpaid labor was, the second shift still falls mainly to women — and still isn’t valued as the real and vital work it is.