Jaisal Noor, Producer, TRNN: Hundreds of thousands marked May Day—also known as International Workers Day—in dozens of countries across the world. Protesters marched against austerity and demanded higher wages, better benefits, and improved working conditions. The actions took place just one week after a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh served as a grim reminder of the dangers of lax safety regulations in poor countries.
As the death toll from that disaster surpassed 400, thousands of Bangladeshis took to the streets of their capital, Dhaka, and demanded justice for the low-wage workers killed in the factory collapse, enforcement of safety standards, higher wages, and the end of threats and harassment against union organizers. Protestors reportedly chanted, “Hang the killers! Hang the Factory Owners!”
Thousands of low-wage garment workers also took to the streets of Cambodia, expressing solidarity with the workers in Bangladesh and demanding their garment industry increase their minimum wage and increase workplace protections. Solidarity actions with Bangladeshi workers were also held in New York, London, Los Angeles, among many other cities across the globe. The Pope also expressed his support for the Bangladeshi garment workers and appealed for all worker to receive fair wages.
In Indonesia, tens of thousands of union members and their supporters shut down the capital of Jakarta to protest of the government’s proposed budget cutbacks and the reduction of benefits of government workers. And in the Philippines, thousands of laborers rallied in the capital, Manila, for better pay, worker protections, and job stability.
The wave of anti-austerity actions also swept Europe, with tens of thousands taking to the streets of France and Italy. In Greece, where official unemployment is over 25 percent and the government has proposed slashing thousands of more jobs, tens of thousands of public sector employees held a 24-hour anti-austerity strike to protest against massive spending cuts, reportedly shutting down much of the country’s public services. Record Spanish unemployment, including over 50 percent for young people, fueled massive protests in dozens of cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, and Bilbao.
May Day turned violent in Turkey after police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds attempting to enter the popular Taksim Square to show worker solidarity. Several were reportedly arrested.
Actions were also held in several African Countries, including Morocco, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Tens of thousands of workers and the unemployed took to the streets to demand action to end to poverty, government corruption, and enactment of policies to support job creation.
Events also took place across South America. Bolivian President Evo Morales used his May Day speech to announce the expulsion of USAID for allegedly working against his government. In Cuba, Raul Castro addressed tens of thousands who gathered to mark May Day, dedicating the day to deceased former Venezulean president Hugo Chávez. Thousands also took to the streets of Venezuela.
And in Mexico, tens of thousands of students, teachers, and workers clashed with police in the nation’s capital.
May Day was also marked in dozens of cities across the United States, where thousands showed their support for low wage workers, for humane immigration reform, and against budget cuts.
In Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Oakland, among other cities, undocumented immigrants and their supporters showed their opposition to the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill currently being debated by the Senate. The bill would create a 13-year path to citizenship for some undocumented workers, but protestors say they oppose it because it would further criminalize the undocumented, see increased border militarization, and disadvantage low-wage and low-income workers.
Anti-austerity protests also took place in Washington, D.C., and New York, with activists demanding employers allow low-wage workers to unionize and provide them with a living wage. They also demanded an end to war and, instead, investment in schools and other infrastructure. Several were arrested, including at this scene in Washington, D.C.
Reporting for The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.