Lessons from Labor Day

Behind the scenes: Why we celebrate laborers in the PH

14 May 2024

Every May 1st, we Filipinos kickstart the month with Labor Day festivities to honor the significant contributions of our laborers in the development of society. Said to be the only holiday in the PH calendar that was first proclaimed by workers for workers, let’s look at how it all began and what timeless lessons we can learn and apply to the present day.

The labor movement of the 1900s

While the Philippines was still under American occupation in 1903, the nation’s first labor federation, Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas, was formed. It sought to fight for the rights of Filipino laborers who were facing less than ideal working conditions. With Isabelo de los Reyes at the helm, the labor group mobilized over 100,000 workers to protest unjust employment practices on May 1, 1903.

A decade after the protests, Labor Day was declared a national holiday, and the rest was history.

From collective struggles to milestones

One of the landmark rights working-class Filipinos fought for was the practice of eight-hour workdays. This was a brave rebuttal to the Industrial Revolution’s ways of working where a workday could range anywhere between 10 to 16 hours, primarily six days a week. 

Over the years, Filipino laborers sought the implementation of mandatory benefits like 13th month pay, fair compensation, the right to safety and health at work, and security of tenure among others.

Labor Day celebrations have also sought to put the minimum wage law into action. However, a 2020 report noted that Filipinos were among those with the lowest salaries globally in terms of average wage ($308 or PHP15,200).

Lessons from Labor Day

Timeless lessons

Over a centennial after May 1 was declared a national holiday, the memory of the festivities lives on, and the fight continues. Here are some timeless lessons we can apply to celebrate and champion our workforce.

Empathize with your employees

Remember that your people are not just cogs in a machine. They have real human needs and a life outside of the 9-to-5 too. The pandemic’s Great Resignation trend also brought with it the so-called Empathy Renaissance, with research showing that it has become the most in-demand leadership skill of the 21st century. 

Empathy starts with a listening ear. For one, you can give your employees a safe space to voice out their concerns without getting reprimanded. You know you’re on the right path when you listen well and ensure that actions are being taken with proper follow-through.

Going above and beyond reaps long-term benefits

The spirit of Labor Day is not just about mere compliance. Despite being 100 years apart, the demands of the 20th century Filipino working class carry the same essence of the present day’s demands—pro-people labor practices that are in tune with the times.

Leading an engaged, productive, and inspired workforce is all about going above and beyond labor mandatories (i.e. number of working hours, minimum wage). It’s all about valuing their contributions to your workplace. The adage is true: take care of your people, and they’ll take care of your business too.

Lessons from Labor Day
Weave employee experience into your business strategy

Rather than a few one-offs, let employee experience be a part of your business strategy. Get to really know your people to personalize management approaches, advocate for their well-being, and let work-life balance be the norm. Moreover, don’t forget to show your appreciation.

At Pluxee, we are firm believers in elevating employee experience with rewards that provide a variety of choice and enable joyful moments. Not to mention, a seamless simplified benefits management system for you.

Let’s talk about the rewards journey best fit for your organization and keep the spirit of Labor Day alive. Sign up here to know more.