Marches, Rallies Mark May Day Around the World

Workers and protesters throughout the world observed May Day Tuesday with rallies and strikes demanding their governments address better working conditions and other labor issues.

In addition to being an international day honoring workers or a traditional spring time festival, Tuesday is also International Worker’s Day in many countries.

Russia

In Moscow, about 120,000 people marched from Red Square to the main streets in a traditional May Day parade.

In St. Petersburg, Russia, several hundred citizens upset over the Kremlin’s efforts to restrict internet freedom, joined the official May Day celebration. They protested the ban of the messaging application Telegram, a move that triggered a rally in Moscow that was attended by 10,000 people.

Spain

Marches calling for gender equality, higher salaries and better pensions were held in more than 70 cities in Spain. Thousands of people turned out for the largest rally in Madrid, displaying a show of unity behind the slogan “Time to Win.”

General Union Workers’ Union of Spain leader Pepe Alvarez said meeting the demands of feminists, youths and workers are necessary to “redistribute wealth.”

Spain’s economy has been among the fastest growing in Europe in recent years.

United States

May Day Demonstrations for immigrant and labor rights were planned in California, New York, Florida and other U.S. cities.

“The Trump administration has made very clear that they’ve declared war on the immigrant community on all levels,” said Javier Valdez of the advocacy group Make the Road New York.

Immigration rights organizations have participated in May Day activities for over a decade to resist anti-immigration legislation. Now the advocates are focusing on voter turnout in the November mid-term elections.

South Korea

In downtown Seoul, South Korea, about 10,000 labor union members took to the streets to call for a higher minimum wage and to make other demands.

The rally, organized by the Korean Federation of Trade Unions, urged the government to approve a $9.34 minimum wage and convert non-regular workers to regular employees with equal pay.

Turkey

Dozens of demonstrators were detained during May Day events in Istanbul, most of whom tried to march toward the city’s main square in defiance of a government ban.

Citing security concerns, the Turkish government declared Taksim Square off-limits. Nevertheless, small groups of people chanting “Taskim cannot be off limits on May 1” tried to push their way into the square, resulting in scuffles and the detention of 45 demonstrators.

Taksim Square is symbolically significant to Turkey’s labor movement. Thirty-four people were killed there during a May Day event in 1977 when shots were fired into the crowd from a nearby building.

Indonesia

Some 10,000 workers rallied near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, urging the government to raise wages and to refrain from outsourcing. They also called for a ban on foreign laborers in Indonesia, saying their presence reduces job opportunities for local workers.

Greece

Thousands of Greeks marched through central Athens in several May Day demonstrations.

Museums were closed and public transportation operated on a reduced schedule.

Police said at least 7,000 people attended one rally in Athens that was planned by the communist party-led union. They marched past parliament toward the United States Embassy.

Cambodia

Prime Minister Hun Sun observed May Day in Cambodia with about 5,000 garment workers just outside the capital of Phnom Penh.

About 2,000 other garment workers gathered at a park in Phnom Penh for a rally. They wanted to march to the National Assembly to convince lawmakers to assist them with labor issues, but the group was stopped by riot police.

Philippines

Some 5,000 people demonstrated near the presidential palace in Manila to protest Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to fulfill a campaign promise to halt the practice of short-term employment.

They also demanded that the government provide higher wages and address joblessness and trade union repression.  

South Africa

Separate May Day marches organized by rival trade unions were held in the coastal South African city of Durban and in other parts of the country.

Riot police were deployed as members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Federation of Trade Unions marched through routes that were designed to put distance between the two unions.

On Monday, COSATU President S’dumo Diamini said at a news conference, “We call upon all workers to work together. Their enemy is one: Monopoly capital.”

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