Mayo Uno 2014 (Labor Day in Manila)

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May 1, 2014. It was the reportedly the hottest day of the year to date, and perhaps no other description can be more apt to figuratively describe the intensity of the passion that filled those who participated in the annual protest rally. Tens of thousands filled the plaza around the monument of Gat Andres Bonifacio in Lawton, as the same deluge marched the streets of midtown Manila to Mendiola to reaffirm the demands of the working class and other sectors of society for social justice.

Labor Day in Manila 2012

This is the Power I referred to earlier – a living, communal constellation of complex, intelligent, fair-minded civic interests most days rendered indecipherable and at times inaccessible by mass media’s atomizing officiating of hegemony passed off as reality. As if only mobilization and manifestation of struggle were, for the moment at least, really capable of displacing the reactionary capture and expropriation of peoples’ collective will. – Jonathan Beller, Labor Day Manifestation

An estimated 20,000 Filipinos trooped to the streets of Manila on Labor Day to demand a nationwide wage hike and to protest against government inaction on massive unemployment and poverty. Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines
Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines
Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day 2012 Manila, Philippines

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 4)

My friends in UP and colleagues from Kabataan Party were at the Labor Day rally to affirm the workers’ sector’s causes and to push for the youth sector’s own issues intricately connected with the workers’ struggles. I’ll post some news releases below.

8 out of 10 unemployed Filipinos are youth New grads could end up idle for months, years

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino on Labor Day warned that majority of this year’s 900,000 new college graduates could end up idle months or even years after graduation. “The youth are always at the greatest risk in these economic downturns. Often it is young workers or new graduates who are the hardest hit,” Palatino said. “For every 10 unemployed Filipinos, five fall under the age group of 15 to 24 years,” Palatino said, citing the January 2009 Labor Force Survey. This accounts for 49.2 percent of the total number of unemployed Filipinos. If combined with the 25 to 34 age group, Palatino said the share of young Filipinos in the unemployed accounts for 80 percent of the total number of unemployed Filipinos. “Young, low-skilled workers are easily priced out of entry-level jobs. Young workers are also often disadvantaged in bargaining arrangements,” he added. “The government is trying to hide the high unemployment and underemployment rates in the country by using the call center boom and its new medical tourism program.”

“Malacanang is sponsoring call center and tourism job fairs to create an illusion that there are still decent jobs available in the country. But these jobs are market-driven, meaning they are temporary in nature and are not sustainable for young Filipinos looking for permanent careers,” Palatino said. “The government’s adherence to globalization policies which vulnerably open up the economy to unrestrained entry of foreign goods and capital is slowly killing our own enterprises, leading to mass lay-off of workers and lost job opportunities. Coupled with the present global economic meltdown, they only exacerbate the dismal conditions that our young workers and fresh graduates are already facing,” he said.

When the sun had set, people started lighting up their sulos and the thousands marched to the American Embassy in Roxas Boulevard. We were blocked by policemen in a barricade near the embassy, so we decided to hold the protest program right there and then.

Imperialist virus

“Unjust and deliberate retrenchments, slashing of wages and work shifts, and institutionalization of flexible labor schemes have become the worst epidemic ever as it has already destroyed the lives of millions throughout the world,” KMU Chairperson Elmer Labog said. “It was the big businesses mainly from the US imperialist that have created the economic crisis outbreak, and made workers bear the brunt of it to ensure their continued profiteering. Thus, Labor Day becomes most relevant to all because to defend the cause of the workers — for job security, better wages and living conditions — is to champion the interests of the greater majority, that are always subdued by the capitalist elites.” Labog added. “This May 1, we shall bring the fight at the foot of the global crisis epidemic’s mastermind: the US regime.”

The KMU-led rally trooped to the US embassy with a thousand torches and culminated the program there. “The Arroyo government, as one of the US regime’s most favorite puppets, has consistently enacted policies that make the country’s economy serve US the most, such as limitless lifting of restrictions and giving of incentives to foreign trade products, investments, and ownership. “Arroyo is even railroading the ChaCha now to gain further US support to her term extension plans, for the ChaCha will allow 100 percent foreign ownership — meaning greater US imperialist control — to Philippine resources, media, and basic government institutions. And we expect the onslaught or more lay-offs, wage cuts, and labor rights violations if foreign monopolies will have greater control of our economy,” Labog added. The Labor Day rally also served as an anti-ChaCha demonstration.

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 3)

After taking some shots of the march at Quiapo, I tried to run ahead of the demonstrators to the other end of Quezon Bridge to be able to take shots of the different contingents that made up the march, from the labor and other militant leaders in front to those from the youth sector at the back. There were contingents from migrant workers, government employees, health workers, teachers, farmers, fishermen, jeepney drivers, among others.

Upon reaching Liwasang Bonifacio, the annual Labor Day program commenced. Agitating and passionate speeches from leaders of Kilusang Mayo Uno and Anakpawis were delivered. Calls reiterating the workers’ demand for the P125 across-the-board wage increase resounded in the plaza. Solidarity messages from other sectors of society, including the youth, were also delivered. There were also cultural presentations and song numbers from cultural workers’ groups.

Towards the latter part of the program, labor leaders from other countries also spoke and delivered their messages of solidarity. It was quite uplifting, and pretty amusing too when the labor delegate from Mexico chanted the quintessential el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido! (the people united will never be defeated!) with the rest of the crowd following suit. For a while it felt like we were in a large workers’ rally in Latin America. The atmosphere wasn’t just agitating, it was also, in a way, festive and celebratory–different sectors of society coming together to reaffirm the role of workers and their collective strength. On a very shallow level, it was also quite fun trying out all the street food that dozens of ambulant vendors were selling at Liwasang Bonifacio, while re-acquainting yourself with colleagues from different youth organizations and taking photos.

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 2)

Labor Day or Mayo Uno 2009 was also a day when Filipino workers’ organizations and unions, together with allied organizations, reiterated and reaffirmed the call for the approval of the P125 across-the-board wage increase which the government has slept on for the past decade, despite the fact that even if it was approved today, it would already be short of the average cost of living. The government and big business line, of course, is to equate wage hikes with job cuts and to ultimately pit jobs and wages against each other, where the contradiction is not supposed to exist.

Contrary to claims of government officials in cahoots with big businesses, a P125 wage increase is doable. Just look at the profit margins of any big business in the country. An IBON Foundation study, for one, claims that “the increasing labor productivity of local workers, or the ratio of national output to employment, has been steadily increasing over the past decade.” It added that “between 1999 and 2006, labor productivity has increased by 56.3% in nominal terms and 13.1% in real terms (taking inflation into account). This shows that employers could afford to grant the P125 wage hike, which would necessarily trim their profit margin but will certainly not push them to bankruptcy.”

The unwillingness of government and big businesses to pay their workers decent wages, is simply a manifestation of, aside form the excessive greed of CEO’s and capitalist junkies, the inherent unjust character of the current capitalist order. From Quiapo, the demonstrators proceeded across Quezon Bridge onto Liwasang Bonifacio, where the annual Labor Day program, led by KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno) and Anakpawis, is held.

Labor Day in Manila ’09 (Part 1)

Last May 1 was International Workers’ Day, a day when workers around the world and allied sectors of society demonstrate their collective strength and their collective call for better wages and better working and living conditions. Here in the Philippines, storms of protest all over the nation marked Labor Day as calls to stop the retrenchment and wage cuts resounded in the streets.

In Manila, tens of thousands converged along Espana and marched to Liwasang Bonifacio. It was my second Labor Day rally. My first one was back in 2007. My friends from UP, colleagues from Kabataan Party and I started our Labor Day participation with a protest action at Philcoa at noon, together with residents of communities around UP and jeepney drivers in campus.

Past noon, we took jeepneys to the rally’s assembly point along Espana, near the University of Sto. Tomas. For an hour or so, people from various groups and sectors converged until our numbers swelled to the thousands. I was carrying a flag of Kabataan Party from Espana till past the Quezon Boulevard Underpass when a colleague of mine took my flag so that I could take photos of the march to Liwasang Bonifacio. I raced up to one of the pedestrian overpasses in Quiapo and took shots of the long march. Indeed, the entire stretch of Quezon Boulevard from the underpass to the bridge was filled with demonstrators. Images like these one don’t usually get to see in traditional media.

[with news reports from arkibongbayan.org]

Not just about higher wages

Yes, instead of trooping to the cinemas to see Spider-Man 3 on its first official screening day, I went to Manila, together with some friends from UP and fellow members of Kabataan Party, to join the annual Labor Day celebration and protest of thousands of workers and activists. It was my first May 1 mobilization.

Marching under the scorching heat of the afternoon sun is torture. But all’s well in registration of one’s protest against a system that cares more for its capitalists and investors than and at the expense of its workers.