May 1st is International Workers’ Day, a day to recognize, celebrate, and demonstrate workers’ historic and ongoing struggles. It symbolizes the common struggles of the working class.
Historically, May 1st signifies the gains workers achieved in the late 19th century in North America. Workers were faced with unsafe working environments and long hours which led to workplace injuries and fatalities. Fed up with these unjust conditions, workers fought back to demand a shorter work day with no cut in pay. Thousands of workers took to the streets and many workers lost their lives in this effort.
When we think about the people who put their lives on the line for the rights we enjoy today, we realize that we cannot take anything we’ve gained for granted. So we should not only celebrate but recognize that there is an urgent need for us to keep up the fight for our rights today – and this is the case now, more than ever.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the fact that it’s not CEOs or bosses that make the world go ‘round, it’s actually workers.
It is the front line workers who produce the products and provide the services we all rely on. And it is during this health pandemic that we truly see what our societies need to prioritize in order to function: health care, education, community services, child care, food services…the list goes on.
While many of the workers who work in these essential services are proclaimed to be the heroes that SEIU-West already knows they are, the fact is, the support these workers need from their employers and governments are not in place.
Whether it be the lack of clear communication from employers, the years of underfunding to our public services, the lack of safety supplies due to cutbacks, or the low wages that lead to multiple jobs just to make ends meet – it’s clear our governments, employers and decision-makers need to put workers first, and not their bottom line.
This May Day, SEIU-West encourages you to not only thank workers for their incredible services, but to also write to your elected officials about the need for supports such as: a living wage, paid sick leave, a robust social safety net, affordable child care and housing, accessible public transit and particularly right now, comprehensive personal protective equipment (PPE) for all workers.
There are also May Day events you can join, such as Labour Notes’ webinar, May Day: System In Crisis—A Working-Class Vision for the Future.
We hope you have a safe and healthy May Day!