On May 1, 1886, the demonstration of thousands of workers in Chicago who had struck for improved working conditions was fired on by the police and dozens of workers were killed. Nevertheless the workers persisted and continued their straggle, and managed to gain most of their demands regarding working conditions, regulations and a reduction in hours from ten per day to eight.
Workers attending the Labour Day rallies in Guyana are calling for a single trade union umbrella body to represent them on issues of common concern. Make no mistake, when employers violate workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, they are not just holding workers back economically, they’re chipping away at democratic rights that are essential to the economy of our society. It’s no coincidence that social and economic fairness in Guyana expanded dramatically during and after the rapid growth of union membership in the 1960s and 1970s, or that inequality has worsened in our country over the last two decades as the proportion of workers represented by unions has declined. That’swhy I get mad as hell when some trade union leaders who claim to care about workers and democratic values promote deals and other policies that undermine workers’ rights and living standards, and concentrate more and more economic and political power in the hands of fewer and fewer people. But getting mad as hell won’t change things; only our collective action will.
This Labour Day let’s make a commitment to ourselves, our families, and communities to stay in the forefront of public efforts and campaigns to keep and expand workers’ rights and progressive policies that will help all workers in Guyana to build brighter futures through their own active participation in making the decisions that affect their lives. The time has come for members to take back their unions from the leaders if they are not acting in the best interest of their members. We have the power to remove them from office and elect new leaders; the time is now right now. This Labour Day, “We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off” and begin again the work of rebuilding the trade union movement.
I wish to remind workers that this Labour Day will create bitterness, despair and a loss of confidence, all designed to break the spirit of workers’ solidarity.
Clerical & Commercial Workers’ Union