Celebrate The Workers! May Day 2024

This May Day, we celebrate workers all over the world from the Philippines to Canada, it is their essential labour that transforms our nations and our world. Also known as International Workers Day, or Labour Day, May Day was established in 1889 by the Second International as a worldwide demonstration aimed at supporting working class demands, such as the demand for an 8 hour work day. The date of May 1 was chosen to commemorate the general strike in Chicago that began on May 1, 1886 and culminated in the Haymarket Affair, a massacre that left 8 workers dead. The brave actions of these workers fighting for respect and dignity will forever be remembered and celebrated on the first of May.

In the Philippines, May Day was first recognized as a holiday by the Philippine Congress in 1908. During the American colonial period, Filipino workers were often forced to work as long as 12 hours a day under brutal conditions. In 1903, the first labour union in the Philippines, the Union Obrera Democratica Filipina, organized a march of thousands of workers to Malacañang Palace to demand better working conditions. This historic protest led to the beginning of the workers’ rights movement in the Philippines that continues to this day. 

Over a hundred years later, the conditions of labourers in the Philippines is still dire as many workers are still subject to overwork for low pay, high unemployment and poor working conditions. Beyond industrial workers, peasants and agricultural workers such as farmers and fishers continue to suffer under the boot of a semi-colonial and semi-feudal system.

In Canada, May Day is a time to reflect on the contributions of Filipino workers in this country and around the world who leave the Philippines under the country’s labour export policy to pursue employment abroad. Often among the most underpaid and overexploited workers, the almost 1 million Filipinos living in Canada contribute massively to the Canadian economy, with a large percentage of workers employed in health care, social assistance, and manufacturing. These workers are the backbone of Canadian society and deserve dignity in their labour.

As thousands of workers gather today in major cities from the Philippines to Canada to demand better wages and working conditions, may we remember the common plight of all workers around the world and continue fighting for a just and dignified future.

Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

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