MAY DAY 2008
A world of reasons for ALL workers to unite
Published Apr 27, 2008 10:45 PM
This May Day, International Workers’ Day, there will be plenty of reasons
for workers in the United States—and around the world—to take to
the streets in protest over their conditions and to raise their demands.
There are of course the issues around disastrous layoffs, shrinking pay,
speedup, shortened hours and other deteriorating working conditions.
But also on the agenda are the many ways in which the workers and their
communities find themselves under assault from a billionaire class that uses
racism, sexism, homophobia, immigrant bashing and pro-war propaganda to keep
the people from being able to fight back effectively.
It was a huge outpouring of immigrant workers on May 1, 2006, organized rapidly
and from the grassroots in response to legislation threatening their rights,
that restored May Day in the United States as the premier day of workers’
For decades, since the rabidly right-wing period of the 1950s known as
McCarthyism, May Day had been suppressed in this country as “too
left.” It was “unpatriotic” to march in synch with millions
of workers all over the world demanding a better life—even though May Day
actually originated in the struggle of workers in Chicago in 1886. Unions here
were restricted to parades on Labor Day that left out the broader social
But now it is clearer than ever that the problems workers face are
global—and international working-class solidarity is vital to the
The immigrant workers who brought back May Day have been the target of massive
government repression since then. This year’s marches by workers of all
backgrounds must be dedicated to the tens of thousands who can’t
participate because they have been subjected to widespread raids, arrests and
deportations that have torn apart families and left them destitute.
This year, courageous longshore workers will be shutting down the West Coast
ports for eight hours on May 1 in a strike against the war in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Other unions are pledging their support, showing that workers in
this country believe this endless war, with its horrendous casualties and
enormous cost, is definitely an issue for the labor movement.
In many parts of the country, particularly the Midwest, the epidemic of housing
foreclosures and the demand for a moratorium will be raised as an urgent issue
on May Day. Workers there are being hit with a double whammy: losing jobs with
union pay just as the cost of subprime mortgages is ballooning. Being jobless
and homeless is a worker’s worst nightmare.
This nightmare is compounded for many tens of millions in the United States by
racism and national oppression. Black workers, as well as Latin@s, are losing
their jobs and homes in disproportionate numbers. The survivors of Katrina,
those who made it through the hurricane and flooding only to almost perish of
neglect in the aftermath, are struggling to actually keep decent public housing
from being torn down in New Orleans.
The U.S. prison system, by far the largest in the world, is stuffed with people
of color who are locked up for supposed “crimes” of survival. A
recent study showed the U.S. rate of incarceration is five times the world
And while corporate criminals who swindle billions of dollars get out in a few
months or years—assuming they ever go to jail at all—there are
countless African American, Native and Latin@ prisoners, like Mumia Abu-Jamal,
the Angola 3 and Leonard Peltier, who spend most of their lives behind bars
because they refuse to knuckle under to the system. They are truly political
prisoners, as are the Cuban 5 who tried to shield their country from U.S.-based
It is workers and the poor who are injured the most by corporate industrial
pollution, not only where they work and live, but as people on a planet rapidly
being degraded by global warming.
The good news is that while women’s oppression intensifies with
deteriorating economic conditions, it is women organizing into unions who have
brought about the growth of the labor movement in the last couple of years.
All these issues rightfully belong in the May Day marches, along with so many
more concrete examples of why the working class needs to unite and fight,
together with our sisters and brothers around the world, against the super-rich
class that is spreading misery to all four corners of the globe.
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