CUPE marks International Workers’ Day 2019

On May 1, workers around the world rally to honour the fight for an eight‑hour workday, and to call for decent work, dignity and respect. CUPE recognizes International Workers’ Day, or May Day, in solidarity with millions of workers.

CUPE stands with all workers organizing for safe working conditions, a living wage, benefits and a decent pension, as well as for accessible, affordable public services. We draw inspiration from our international solidarity connections and the courage of workers who risk their lives every day for these demands.

Worker power, including the power of striking, is at the heart of May Day. On May 1, 1886, hundreds of thousands of workers across the United States went on a general strike, calling for an eight-hour workday. On May 4, police opened fire on striking workers in Chicago, killing eight workers and wounding many more. The strike was a turning point in the fight for a shorter workday.

This year CUPE is marking the anniversary of another powerful moment in our labour history, the Winnipeg General Strike. More than 30,000 people took part in a six-week walkout that started on May 15, 1919. Their demands included fair wages, as well as the right to join a union and bargain collectively.

One hundred years later we’ve made many strides as workers in Canada – and there’s much left to accomplish. But corporations and right-wing governments want to turn back the clock. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is widening. Employers are tabling cuts and concessions at the bargaining table. Racism and anti-immigrant hate are on the rise. The climate crisis gets more urgent by the day. And our power as workers to build a better world at the bargaining table and in the streets is under attack.

Right now, CUPE nursing home workers in New Brunswick are in the courts fighting for their right to strike. The attack on their collective bargaining rights is part of a pattern.

Last year Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals trampled on postal workers’ right to free collective bargaining. Ontario Premier Doug Ford forced CUPE 3903 workers back to work as his first act in power, and the same regressive Conservative government introduced back-to-work legislation before Power Workers’ Union members even went on strike.

On May Day, we recommit to defending workers’ rights in Canada and around the world. Our shared struggles for economic justice, racial justice, migrant justice and climate justice are connected across borders.

We will keep strengthening worker-to-worker connections in the year ahead, linking arms with migrant workers in Canada, and with workers from many parts of the world including Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel-Palestine, Myanmar, Nicaragua and the Philippines.

You can get involved in your community this May Day by supporting the Migrant Rights Network’s #UniteAgainstRacism May Day actions.