Local peace and labor activist celebrated May Day, international Workers Day, at the Peace and Social Justice Center, last night. “Demanding a living wage” was the theme of the event and many people present complained that it should not be possible to work full time and not be able to live on the money earned.
“This idea of having working two or three jobs to try to make ends meet is ridiculous” a member of the audience said.
Richard Stephenson discussed efforts to organize people in the service industries. He said labor groups are getting attention from people who work at Wal*Mart who are tired of being treated so badly.
“Today only 7 percent of people are represented by unions,” Stephenson said. “People feel crushed, saddened, they have learned helplessness.”
He said that the Occupy movement struck a chord with many people in the public with the slogan “99 %.”
“That slogan was understood,” he said. He added that new efforts to organize workers are depending on volunteers and tactics that have worked in the past.
Stuart Elliott, of Democratic Socialists of America, talked about the origins of May Day.
“There was a rally for an eight hour day at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company and someone through a bomb,” Elliott explained. “Eight people were arrested.” As he explained the evidence against them was flimsy. A victory for the eight hour day was the origin for the May Day celebration.
Elliott explained that unions are working on outreach programs and hope to reach all 50 states in the next 5 years.
“Workers need to know their rights,” he said. “Workers have been pushed to the bottom.”
Other speakers talked about the Workers in Bangladesh who have been injured or killed after a building collapsed on them. The accident happened because the companies making those products had cut corners on safety procedures and people in that country are extremely upset by what may be the biggest fire in the Garments industry in Bangladesh history.
One of the highlights of the evening was the signing of and discussion of the Internationale.