Every year we mark the 1st of May as a holiday in our calendars. It provides a good occasion to commemorate history and appreciate the long way the workers’ movement has come.
The origin of this day is a protest for the eight-hour working day that was held back in 1886 in the United States, during which many people lost their lives. Closer to home, the first European May demonstration took place in Paris in 1890, at a time when not only were the working days 10-12 hours long but there was also only one day off in the whole week. This struggle may seem to belong to an ancient time, but it was only in 1937 that the eight-hour working day became standard for everybody.
The trade union movement has succeeded in shaping our working environment, jobs and work-life balance in ways that we may now take for granted – and this is a good thing. But we need to also realise that the continuously changing world in which we live and work requires us to stay vigilant and creative. There will always be fights for workers’ rights and to be successful in these endeavours it is also very important to learn lessons from the past.
As part of the preparations for the 50th anniversary of the ETUC, the ETUI has embarked on a large project mapping the history of the European trade union movement throughout the years. From interviews with European trade union leaders from the past 50 years we are collecting unique experiences of people who have managed to secure the union movement a place at the table of European integration. The context has changed over the years and so have the strategies used by elected trade union leaders and members. However, the one constant feature of their actions has been the preservation of unity between the numerous and diverse trade union organisations in Europe.
This historical project is important for our work at the ETUI as we have to understand the past in order to grasp the challenges and developments taking place at the European level today, which we anticipate, follow and analyse for you. In addition to our latest publications, courses and events, which you can read about in this newsletter, I would like to point to an example of history colliding with the future in my newest blogpost ‘A single market for the future’ (et en français ici: ‘UE : construire aujourd'hui le marché intérieur de demain’). The single market has been at the heart of European integration since its inception, but the war in Ukraine, the climate challenge and the concept of strategic autonomy are paving the way for a new type of single market.
And last but not least, as from today you can register for our ETUC-ETUI joint conference ‘A Blueprint for Equality’, which will be held on 22-24 June in Brussels. We hope to be able to welcome you all at this high-level event, which is the fifth edition of a very successful series of conferences.