While May 1 is a celebration of the onset of spring in many cultures, the labour movement would like to take May Day back to its historical roots, celebrating the occasion as International Workers Day. The origins of May Day; date back to 1886 when over 100,000 workers went on strike in Chicago to fight for an 8-hour work day. The New York Occupy Movement is calling for workers to join in an international general strike against ‘the 1%’ of the population who control the majority of wealth. They are using the slogan “Don’t go to work. Don’t go to school. Don’t shop. Take the streets!” Some believe that if the May Day general strike is successful, it will mark the comeback of the Occupy Movement.
Toronto is in a particularly unique situation following some very trying negotiations between the Ford Administration and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Locals 79 and 416. This diverges from former Mayor David Miller’s two terms of labour peace. Many in the union came away panning the new contracts. However that perspective neglects the fact that the only victory Mayor Ford really walked away from these negotiations with was the ‘right to work’; a clause that used to be in contracts of CUPE employees for the City of Toronto that guaranteed workers reassignment, rather than being bought out or terminated. What Ford’s supporters and opponents appear to neglect is that the Mayor caved on numerous promises he had made during the election with regards to salary, sick days, and benefits.
The failure of the Mayor’s opponents to realize these submissions has led to calls to celebrate May Day as an unofficial protest of the current administration’s labour policies. Notable among these opponents is Toronto’s very own Occupy movement. Occupy and activist group, No One is Illegal, will come together to play chess to celebrate May Day, and to show their opposition to all three levels of government and mining corporation Barrick Gold (who made the unfortunate decision to hold their annual general meeting at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre that same week).
It would be prudent for those planning to attend any May Day festivities to distance themselves from the violence that characterized recent protests; such as the student riots in Quebec. That said; it is difficult to deny the revolutionary spirit that inspired them. It is in that motif that Torontonians might wish to use the event of May Day as a period for which to remember the failure of government and administrations to adequately train and provide jobs for new graduates. With unemployment only now starting to fall it would be nice to see Torontonians come together for the betterment of our neighbours.
[Originally published at Examiner.com.]