A Day for Workers
run-up to this year's May 2007 elections threatens to foreshadow this
year's May Day for workers. But this should not be so.
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
The run-up to this year's
May 2007 elections threatens to foreshadow this year's May Day for
workers. But this should not be so.
For one, May 1 is an
international event. An international gathering of workers in Paris on
July 14, 1889 decided to declare May 1, 1890 as an international day of
protest by workers for an eight-hour workday.
But that was not the
first May Day protest action. The first May Day strike was staged by
workers in Chicago to fight for an eight-hour workday. As an offshoot, the
workers held another protest action at Haymarket Square on May 4 or the
day after Chicago police brutally attacked striking workers of McCormick
Reaper Works where six workers were killed and many wounded. The protest
action was peaceful and was about to be concluded when the police again
attacked the assembled workers. A bomb was thrown into the crowd and a
police sergeant was killed. A battle ensued resulting in the death of
seven policemen and four workers. Four labor leaders were charged with the
bombing and were subsequently hanged even if there was no evidence linking
them to the bomber. More workers were imprisoned.
From 1890 onwards, the
May Day protest action of workers took on a political character with
issues such as universal suffrage, freedom of assembly, colonial and
neo-colonial oppression, freedom for political prisoners, government
repression, wars of aggression, and recently globalization being raised.
May Day has also been an occasion to call for and demonstrate workers'
Second, the May elections
should supposedly address the plight of Filipino workers. But senatorial
candidates seem to be silent on issues affecting workers. What is their
position regarding the just demand of workers for a legislated wage
increase? If elected, what will they do to protect job security and put a
stop to the practice of hiring workers as "contractuals," or under labor-only
contracting, and sub-contracting? Will they work for the repeal of anti-labor
laws such as the assumption of jurisdiction of strikes by the Department
of Labor, the Herrera law which extended the period of collective
bargaining agreements from three to five years, among others?
Third, the issues being
raised by workers during the latter part of the 19th century
such as the long working hours, attacks on the right of workers to
unionize and strike, poor working conditions, and slave wages are very
much relevant today as it was before, especially to workers of backward
countries such as the Philippines.
Elections have been held
regularly in the country since 1946, except during Martial Law. Different presidents, senators, representatives, and local
officials had been elected and had assumed office. But the conditions of
Filipino workers have only worsened. In fact, millions of workers and
professionals alike had been forced to leave the country to seek gainful
employment abroad. Workers, farmers, and low-paid professionals constitute
the majority of the population of the country. If their conditions
continue to turn for the worse year after year, the cause for celebrating
May Day will continue to be to fight for workers' rights and for a greater
solidarity and empowerment of the toiling masses. Bulatlat
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© 2007 Bulatlat
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