Across Canada and Quebec
• Workers Celebrate Their Achievements and Set Their Direction for the Coming Year
• Revitalized May Day Actions Defend Immigrant Rights and the Rights of All
Around the World
• Militant Affirmation of Rights and Sovereignty
Across Canada and Quebec
Workers celebrate their achievements and set their direction for the coming year
(TML Weekly) – May Day 2017 in Canada and Quebec was marked by workers’ militant actions in various sectors to highlight the struggles they are facing and call for the unity of workers to act as a powerful force in defence of their rights and the rights of all. As well, at annual May Day marches and social and cultural events throughout the country, working people expressed their aspirations for peace internationally and condemnation of imperialist intervention, opposition to efforts by the ruling elite to divide the working class and demands for people’s empowerment and a new direction for the economy.
Halifax held its 10th annual May Day rally and march since the event began to be celebrated anew in that city in 2007. Participants included contingents of postal workers and public service workers as well as local anti-war, anti-imperialist organizers.
In Montreal, workers gathered in Côte-des-Neiges, home to many national minority workers, and called for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, changes to labour laws to benefit workers and status for migrant workers. Prominent in the rally and march were paramedics, who have been on strike throughout Quebec since March, and striking steelworkers from the Samuel et Fils steel distributor who are taking action in defence of pensions. Another Montreal demonstration was organized by the anti-capitalist convergence, and was again this year attacked by police who carried out arrests and used violence against participants. TML Weekly condemns this state repression against protestors.
In Quebec City, a rally and march issued similar calls to increase the minimum wage, and stopped at various workplaces around the city to highlight the unacceptable conditions workers face. Another rally in Trois-Rivières led by unions, student associations and community groups called for increased wages and was followed by a town hall meeting on the subject.
On April 30 in Dolbeau, Quebec, workers and community members held a march in defence of forestry jobs. The action highlighted the important role of the forestry sector in the livelihoods of the people of the region and demanded the federal government stand up for forestry workers in the current efforts of some U.S. monopolies to further concentrate ownership in that sector.
In Ottawa, workers at the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS), members of CUPE 2073 held a May Day rally at the office of Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre and Attorney General of Ontario. The workers have been on strike for nearly two months, while the CHS President and CEO received a 75 per cent pay raise, cut 28 per cent of the organization’s frontline staff and demanded concessions from the workers.
In Toronto, the annual May Day march drew attention to the dangers of war and featured messages of international solidarity and defence of rights. Workers at Pearson International Airport in Mississauga organized in the Toronto Airport Workers’ Council held a rally and march outside the airport terminal. Speakers pointed out that with 40,000 workers, the Toronto airport is among the largest single workplaces in Canada, but only 1,200 people are employed directly by the airport while the rest work for some 300 companies to which their work is contracted out. Workers spoke against the airport “flipping” contracts from one company to another, forcing the workers to re-apply for their jobs at lower standards. A member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said the workers are also organizing to oppose the Liberal government’s proposal to privatize publicly-owned airports throughout the country.
Hamilton steelworkers once again held an early-morning May Day rally at the gates of Max Aicher North America (MANA), a German monopoly that locked out the workers when they refused demands for brutal concessions in June 2013 and has since run the plant using scabs. Locked-out MANA workers — who are members of USW Local 1005, were joined by the Local 1005 leadership, including President Gary Howe as well as members from Stelco; workers from National Steel Car, including the president of USW Local 7135 Steve Weller; the USW Area Council; CUPE; Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Green; and McMaster University students.
The Windsor and District Labour Council held a Workers’ Dinner and Roundtable, hosted by the local Secondary and Elementary Teachers’ Federations. Local workers from various sectors, including manufacturing, as well as education and postal workers, artists, students and other collectives shared their experiences since the last May Day and brought forward their preoccupations for the coming period. A representative of the Marxist-Leninist Party Club in Windsor spoke on the importance of the working people fighting for their rights as a first step to establishing a new political process through which workers exercise decision-making power over the direction of their societies.
Construction and building trades workers in Edmonton held a mass rally on April 30 at the Alberta Legislature calling for the provincial government to make changes to labour law to eliminate measures restricting workers’ right to organize and form a union. Workers also called for laws to end “double breasting,” the practice of one owner establishing multiple companies in order to subvert union workers. The next day, May Day rallies were held in Edmonton and Calgary. Both took up questions of war and peace as a crucial matter for deliberation of the working class, with the Edmonton May Day Committee taking up the call to Make Canada a Zone for Peace and not a base for aggression and war against the peoples of the world who do not submit to U.S. dictate.
Members of the Hospital Employees’ Union in British Columbia held a province-wide May 1 day of action in support of contracted-out food service and housekeeping workers currently in negotiations with the monopolies Compass, Sodexo, Acciona, Marquise and Aramark. Workers denounced the persistent practice of switching contracts from one monopoly to the other in search of the lowest bidder, leaving workers without a job and forcing them to re-apply at lower standards.
The eighth annual May Day Celebration and Banquet in Prince George, BC featured large contingents of university, education, food and restaurant, forestry and public sector workers from the Prince George area, as well as the Mayor of Prince George and three city councillors, students and other community members. The event featured presentations, songs and discussion highlighting the importance of workers’ unity and solidarity. In Vancouver, maritime transport workers, who are in action to oppose Canada’s neo-liberal free trade agreement with the European Union and the Trudeau government’s anti-people reforms to Canada’s transportation system, held a rally and march, later joining the Vancouver District Labour Council May Day parade.
In Cumberland on Vancouver Island, workers held their third annual May Day march, followed by the 20th annual May Day Bean Supper organized by the Cumberland Museum and Archives and the Campbell River Courtenay and District Labour Council. The annual dinner commemorates a coal mine workers’ walkout in 1912 over the firing of the safety committee for reporting explosive gas. Striking miners faced such destitute conditions that the government was forced to send boxcars full of dried navy beans for them to eat.
Maritime transport workers rally in Vancouver.
BC health care workers hold day of action in support of hospital food services workers.
Defending the Rights of All Working People
Stop Paying the Rich! Increase Funding for Social Programs! | Our Security Lies in Our Fight for the Rights of All! | Make Canada a Zone for Peace!
(Photos: TML, P. Lahay, CUPE, HEU, D. Copeland, OSSTF District 9.)
Revitalized May Day Mass Actions Defend Immigrant Rights and the Rights of All
The significance of May Day in the lives of U.S. workers was renewed this year, as part of building united resistance against the assault on workers’ rights and attempts to divide the working class by the Trump administration.
Widespread mass actions took up the call issued by the Movimiento Cosecha (Harvest Movement) for a “Day Without Immigrants” (Día Sin Inmigrantes), that called on immigrant workers to take part in May Day by going on strike “for dignity, respect, and permanent protection.” Signs and slogans affirmed rights and the indispensable role of these workers in the society and economy, especially the agricultural and service sectors, where they are notoriously exploited. Also seen were signs posted at businesses that closed for May Day in support of the strike (la huelga).
Slogans such as “No Ban,” “No Wall,” and “No Deportations” captured the defiant spirit of the day, with broad participation in actions across the country. These May Day actions are a significant rejection of attempts by ruling circles in the U.S. to demobilize and depoliticize the workers, including the replacement of May Day with apolitical Labour Day activities. News reports inform that some workers have been subject to reprisal for their participation in May Day and Day Without Immigrants activities. This must not pass! These workers must be reinstated immediately.
This year’s actions harken back to 2006 when workers also vigorously organized mass actions on May Day to affirm their unity and put the fight for the rights of all front and centre.
TML Weekly salutes the U.S. workers for reaffirming the tradition of May Day as a converging point for the defence of rights and the International Day of Working Class Unity and Struggle. The affirmation of U.S. workers as part of the international working class is an important development at this time when conditions require that workers worldwide unite to take bold stands to defend rights, oppose U.S. imperialist interference and aggression, win political power and create the conditions for international peace.
(Photos: M. Neuman, N. David, NICE, E. Baro, T. Gibbon, Fight Back PGH, P. Linares, Cosecha, Green Mountain IWW, P. Boogart, May Day March Indy, Move On, May Day for the People, Voces de la Frontera, J. Hayden, F. Cabello, AFL-CIO, K. de Leon, We Resist LA, Fight for 15 LA, N. Mancias, P.J. Podesta)
Around the World
Militant Affirmation of Rights and Sovereignty
Worldwide May Day actions were marked by bold actions to defend rights, affirm national sovereignty and ensure a peaceful and bright future for the peoples in the face of neo-liberal nation-wrecking, imperialist intrigues, aggression, occupation and war.
In Havana, Cuban workers and youth marched militantly through Revolution Square behind a banner reading “Our Strength Is Our Unity.” President Raúl Castro and other members of the country’s leadership presided over the activities. Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, Secretary General of the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) addressed the gathering. Granma reports:
“Fifty thousand youth led the parade of workers in the capital on May Day which was dedicated to them this year, as the present and future of the homeland.”
“Cubans are motivated to march today by the Revolution’s social conquests, its continuity into the future, and the challenges of building a more just, prosperous, and sustainable society.
“Many generations of Cubans are coming out to pay tribute to Fidel and to Che, on the 50th anniversary of his death in combat; to defend the country’s sovereignty, demanding an end to the U.S. economic, financial, commercial blockade and the return of territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base.”
In Puerto Rico, May Day was marked by a national strike to reject U.S. oppression and the wrecking of the economy. Dr. Héctor L. Pesquera Sevillano, Co-President of the Hostosiano National Independence Movement said, “With the imposition of the fiscal control board [in 2016], the U.S. Congress wants to subject us to the most base conditions of existence, reminding us that we are its colony.”
In Mexico, workers demonstrated against the neo-liberal reforms of the Peña Nieto government and the impunity in the disappearances and murders of the Ayotzinapa 43 and many others. At the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, people denounced the Trump administration’s proposed border wall and other attacks on the Mexican people.
In Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the main May Day rally was addressed by former president Manuel Zelaya (ousted in a U.S.-backed coup in 2009) where the main banner denounced foreign interference in Venezuela.
In Colombia, workers expressed opposition to the Santos’ government’s neo-liberal economic and labour policies and put their weight behind the demand for the implementation of the peace accords.
In Venezuela, on the eve of May Day, President Nicolás Maduro announced that the government is raising the minimum wage 60 per cent and increasing food stamps by 15 per cent to protect workers from the effects of the economic war being waged against the Bolivarian Revolution by reactionary opposition forces as well as the U.S. imperialists. Similarly, the country’s three million pensioners will receive a special bonus. Recent achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution include the 71.9 million free medical exams carried out since 2003 through the Barrio Adentro Mission in cooperation with Cuba, as well as 1.6 million homes for the poor built by the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission since 2011. A mass May Day rally in Caracas affirmed these achievements and the legacy of the late Hugo Chávez, as part of the revolutionary forces’ fight to win popular support and defeat the intensifying attempts at counterrevolution.
In Brazil, May Day actions followed the massive April 28 national strike of some 40 million workers against the coup government of Michel Temer, its brutal anti-people austerity and profound corruption. May Day activities highlighted this historic achievement — the largest such mobilization ever — and affirmed the workers’ and people’s opposition to the coup government.
In Europe, the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), in its May Day statement summed up the situation facing the working class of Europe and the instability and danger posed by unfolding developments. The statement said in part:
“… the striving for empowerment of the working class is what has always forced open the door to progress. Today, more than ever, the working class continues to fight for an economy that provides for all and for justice, peace and freedom. This is why the ruling elite and their media are using this election, just as they used the Referendum on Brexit, to push a massive disinformation campaign to deprive the working class and people of their own outlook on the basis of which they can find their bearings and make an advance.”
The Trades Union Council held its May Day demonstration in London, England, with calls to defeat the Conservative government of Theresa May in the June 8 election. Union centrals and collectives of workers took part in large May Day rallies and marches throughout the European continent.
On May Day in Syria, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that workers reiterated support for the Syrian Arab Army’s heroic sacrifices through their determination to keep up production despite the circumstances. The continuity of work and production sends a powerful message that terrorists will never win or undermine Syrians’ willingness to defend the homeland, said the workers. The General Federation of Trade Unions, and the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry, in cooperation with all ministries and governmental bodies concerned are doing their utmost to bolster the steadfastness of the working class and guarantee workers’ rights in the public and private sectors so they can perform their duties to the fullest extent and contribute to the process of rebuilding their country, SANA stated. Chairman of the General Federation of Trade Unions Jamal al-Qaderi hailed the workers’ steadfastness amidst the economic war, unjust sanctions and devastation to the factories and infrastructure. The National Leadership of the Baath Arab Socialist Party issued a statement stressing that Syria’s workers have always been the main pillar for development and a symbol of sacrifice, with a rich history of heroic struggle side by side with farmers and other classes in Syrian society.
In Vietnam, celebrations were held to mark May Day as well as the 42nd anniversary of the Southern Liberation and National Reunification Day (April 30, 1975), that also marks the historic victory of the Vietnamese people over the U.S. imperialists.
In south Korea, workers held mass actions amidst the political crisis following the impeachment of former president Park Guen-hye and broad opposition to the U.S. imposition of its terminal high altitude area defence (THAAD) missile defence system that is part of the nuclear arms race to aggress the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), China and Russia. Meanwhile, across the DPRK, workers took time off and held political, cultural and athletic events at their places of work where they were joined by senior Workers’ Party and state officials. This air of calm, despite the histrionic threats being issued by the U.S. imperialists, reflects the confidence of the workers in their own achievements through their political unity, steadfastness and industriousness under the leadership of the Workers’ Party, that has built a modern society that provides the material conditions to guarantee the rights of all and the means to keep the U.S. imperialists at bay.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(With files from Granma, TeleSUR, MINH, PCdoB, RCPB(M-L), SANA, KCNA. Photos: TML, Cubadebate, Trabajadores, Granma, TeleSUR, SME, FMLN, Prensa Libre HN, El 19 Digital, Presidency of Republic of Ecuador, CUT Colombia, AVN, CUT Brasil, ABI, La Izquierda Diario, A. Peter, SIPTU, CGT France, Montecruz Photo, Mintpress, CGTP, CGIL, RT, SANA, CGPI, Xinhua, LICADO, NDO, Anadolu Agency, MD Multimedia, KCNA, KCTU, CFMEU.)
Source: TML Weekly, May 6, 2017 – No. 16, Supplement