May 1st has always marked the coming of Spring — a time of rebirth and new possibilities. For over a century, May Day has been observed as the International Workers Day when workers around the world (some 99%) have united to seek fairer wages, better working conditions, and economic equality.
Beginning on May Day 1886, thousands of workers in Chicago and New York City went on strike, joining the call for an eight-hour day. The response on this and in other occasions, the 1% (the 'haves') have employed various tools of repression including the police, the Cold War, the hysteria of McCarthyism, the passage of anti-union laws, and the expulsion of progressive labour leaders from unions.
As one group marched from Confederation Park towards Parliament Hill, I heard some of the following chants:
- We'll never be defeated. The people united!
- Services are for everybody.
- Respect is what we want. Don't tamper with our pensions. Health care is a human right.
- Challenging the constitutionality of the unjust legislation that has denied us of our most basic rights, the right to negotiate and strike if necessary.
- Organizing the fightback — developing a plan with unions and other allies to regain our right to bargain and strike.
At the end of the day, I was impressed by the spirit of concerned people to change the terms of the debate from narrow interests to the broader social movement interests of equality and social justice for all. Added to this was the desire to follow a policy of nonkilling in society. Getting rid of the $35 billion jet purchase would go a long ways in providing the monies needed for sustainable human programs. As a priority, the state must generously support basic human needs including education, job training, public health care, and culture.
See 50 photos on Flickr.