May first marks a working class holiday celebrated since ancient times around the world.
May Day originated in pagan Europe as a festive holy day to celebrate the end of winter, and the return of the sun and fertility of the soil.
Our modern version of May Day as a working class holiday evolved from the struggle for the eight hour work day.
May 1, 1886 saw national strikes in the United States and Canada for an eight hour day called by the Knights of Labor. Clashes between police and striking workers resulted in many deaths.
In Paris in 1889, the International Working Men’s Association declared May 1st a holiday to commemorate those who died in their fight for workers rights.
Mayday is best known to mariners as an international distress signal.
The call sign originated in 1923 by a senior radio officer in London. He needed a word that would easily be understood by French and English-speaking pilots and came up with ‘mayday’ – it derives from the French m’aider, meaning ‘help me.’
The mayday call is always given three times in a row to distinguish it as an actual emergency.
Back to the May Day holiday: fishermen can lay claim as workers in America’s first and oldest industry, dating back to the late 1400s. And it is our world’s only remaining hunter/gatherer industry for a wild food source.
The seafood industry is Alaska’s largest private employer. Over 60 percent of our nation’s wild caught seafood comes from Alaska.