Tuesday, April 29, 2008

May Day 2008: A world of reasons for ALL workers to unite

MAY DAY 2008
A world of reasons for ALL workers to unite
By Deirdre Griswold
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’ struggle.

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 issues.

But now it is clearer than ever that the problems workers face are global—and international working-class solidarity is vital to the solution.

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 average!

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 terrorists.

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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