Workers worldwide are creatively demonstrating for their rights as COVID-19 lockdowns remain in place.
Rabat – The worldwide celebration for workers’ rights, known as Labor Day, May Day, or International Workers Day, looks different this year as parades and protests advocating workers’ rights move their demonstrations online or at a distance.
In the US, nurses, delivery service workers, and other frontline employees are protesting the lack of protective equipment and unsafe work conditions.
The pandemic has made some workers particularly vulnerable. Many essential workers do not have the privilege to work from home and as such, are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Others have missed out on work altogether, threatening their livelihoods and ability to survive.
Right-wing Trump supporters are organizing what they call a “Rolling Rally” for May Day, calling on Americans to take advantage of low gas prices, fill up their cars, and “drive for freedom.”
Some protesters have insisted on taking to the streets, promising to organize at an appropriate distance.
Around 1,500 Greeks protested in Athens wearing masks and gloves, standing two meters apart from each other in front of the Parliament building. Some used their masks to exhibit the slogan, “Even covered mouths have a voice.”
Although some countries have slowly begun lifting lockdown measures, health experts in many countries suggest it is too soon to return to life as normal, let alone allow for large gatherings. As a result, workers and advocates are getting creative with their demonstrations, saying that now more than ever is a time to advocate for workers’ rights.
Amid a global pandemic, people around the world have been living under stay-at-home orders. Lockdowns to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus are preventing people from gathering or even leaving their homes.
In the Philippines, the government banned protests, and organizers encouraged workers to take their protests to social media.
Labor unions and supporting non-profit organizations urged workers to wear their uniforms and post selfies with their demonstrating placards. Many channeled their support to social media using the hashtag #VirtualLaborDayMarch. Protesters violating official orders risked arrest.
In Spain, where the government recently allowed workers to return to factories, courts deemed drive-by protests unlawful and forced all demonstrations to be virtual.
Germany deployed 5,000 police officers to break up Labor Day rallies in Berlin. Turkey has also seen a number of related arrests.
French labor unions have also called for online support. Additionally, they suggested workers to bang on pots and pans from their balconies at mid-day. French President Emmanuel Macron posted a short video on social media recognizing workers by saying, “And yet the spirit of May 1, this spirit of solidarity between workers, has perhaps never been as powerful.”
Celebrated by more than 80 countries worldwide, the spirit of Labor Day rests in the recognition of workers’ time and energy. It is a reminder of labor laws and workers’ rights.
The holiday first began in Chicago, in the late 19th century. Workers striking for an eight-hour workday led to a deadly riot—police killed two and injured multiple workers. In its aftermath at another gathering, someone threw a dynamite bomb into a crowd of police officers, killing one and resulting in chaos and more deaths as police responded with gunfire.
The windy city’s historic event, known as the Haymarket Massacre, later developed into a celebration of progress and support for workers worldwide.
Last year, Labor Day protests attracted thousands of workers to demonstrate in front of Morocco’s Parliament building in Rabat. Today, the typically paraded-upon streets are quiet as lockdown restrictions remain in place until May 20.