This May Day (Monday, May 1st, 2017), workers worldwide are invited to participate in an unprecedented call for global unity demanding that all full-time workers are paid a living wage by means of a May Day General Strike, which transcends borders and all other divides among fellow workers. The success of this event is dependent upon word of mouth and social media to invite others who will collectively stand together in solidarity to end the unjustifiable inhumane suffering and exploitation of underpaid workers everywhere.
This act of global unity to improve the quality of life for millions, possibly even billions, of people can be held at every place of employment, with workers determining which type of strike is best suited for their unique workplace (i.e. sick-ins, picketing, good work strikes, etc.). A link providing further information on How to Go on Strike is provided at the bottom of this article.
Why May Day?
May 1st, or May Day, is also known as International Workers’ Day and is a national public holiday for many countries around the world, especially Socialist countries.
Most U.S. citizens aren’t aware of this holiday since it is not observed in the U.S., nor is this historically infamous event included in U.S. public curriculum for students. What’s ironic about the country’s willingness to ignore this international holiday is that May Day commemorates the story of a workers’ struggle in 1886 that took place in the U.S. city of Chicago, Illinois.
On May 1st, 1886, workers walked out from their jobs in a planned strike that spanned across many U.S. cities but was centered in Chicago. McCormick Reaper Works plant workers had already been on strike for months, and the plant had hired scabs to keep the company running. Many worker’s rights/labor activists (including union workers, Socialists, and Anarchists) joined the strike in solidarity with the McCormick union workers, who supported the radical new concept of: “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will.”
On May 3rd, 1886, as the McCormick strike continued, violence erupted between demonstrators and police. Police began firing, murdering at least two workers and wounding several others.
In response to the deaths, there was a call for a public gathering the following day, May 4th, at Chicago’s Haymarket Square. The Mayor of Chicago, Carter Harrison, showed up to ensure that there was no civil unrest among the several thousand participants. The meeting was peaceful, with much of the discussion centered on the call for an eight hour workday. The mayor and many workers and their families had already left as the meeting was coming to an end.
The crowd had dwindled to about 500 when around 180 policemen marched into the square ordering immediate evacuation. Suddenly, a bomb was hurled at the marching police from an unknown source, killing a sergeant. The police responded with indiscriminate gunfire, shooting both fellow officers and civilians. Seven policemen and four civilians died, with many more wounded.
The conflict gave the Capitalists the opportunity they had been desperately waiting for, as the entire nation was enraged at the worker’s rights activists over the deaths of these seven policemen. Without evidence, the police arrested eight Socialist and Anarchist leaders, charging them with conspiracy and murder. Despite the fact that four of these men weren’t even at Haymarket Square when the bomb went off, they were all convicted: George Engel, Adolph Fischer, Albert Parsons, and August Spies were hanged; Oscar Neebe was sentenced to fifteen years in jail; Samuel “Sam” Fielden and Michael Schwab had death sentences reduced to life in prison, and Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison.
“Let the world know that in the state of Illinois, eight men were sentenced to death because they believed in a better future; because they had not lost their faith in the ultimate victory of liberty!”
– August Spies, journalist (and one of the hanged men)
The Capitalists and their newspapers successfully took the nation’s rage and fueled mass hysteria across the U.S., demonizing immigrants, Socialists, and Anarchists. While the undercurrent of fear persists to this day throughout the U.S., most U.S. citizens are unaware of May Day.
Meanwhile, citizens from other countries around the world annually commemorate the sacrifice of these eight men for workers’ rights. In Amsterdam, during the 1904 International Socialist Conference, May 1st was officially deemed International Workers’ Day to commemorate the men who were falsely convicted and found guilty for the Haymarket Affair in Chicago on May 4th, 1886.
Since May Day is International Workers’ Day, it seems the ideal date to demand that “The minimum wage must be a living wage!” through a worldwide, 24-hour general strike, continuing the fight for workers’ rights that our brothers and sisters fought in Chicago 131 years ago.
The May Day Fight At Home
While then the charge was for an eight hour workday, now the Fight For $15 movement has begun, with its main goal ending poverty for full-time minimum wage workers. However, to end poverty for full-time workers, the minimum wage must be an amount calculated by the costs of living and not just a set dollar amount. In many cities across the U.S., $15 dollars is a living wage, but there are other cities in the U.S. where $15 dollars is actually below the living wage.
Theoretically, if the minimum wage becomes $15 dollars tomorrow, then it would only be a matter of time – and likely only a short time – before Capitalists increased their production and services, blaming the need for the given increase on having to pay a higher minimum wage, even if they didn’t have any minimum wage workers.
Capitalists want to receive the highest price possible for their products and services. If minimum wage workers were to suddenly have a new or increased disposable income then Capitalists are going to do everything in their power to obtain that money, even if it means exploiting consumers and/or workers. In a Capitalist society we are taught that this is good business, regardless of the consequences for humanity.
These increases would inevitably continue until $15 per hour became the financial significance of our current $7.25 per hour, a starvation wage.
The cycle would continue with the new Fight For $25, which would probably have good intentions just like the current Fight.
However, if the minimum wage became a Living Wage then Capitalists couldn’t simply increase the costs of their products and services because it would also increase the Cost of Living, thus simultaneously increasing the Living Wage which they are to pay their workers.
Now, say a group of landlords decide to raise the rent on all their rental properties because they think that they can squeeze more money out of their minimum wage-earning tenants now that they make a Living Wage. The landlords don’t have any actual workers to whom they must pay a Living Wage, so increasing the Cost of Living wouldn’t directly affect them; however, it would in all likelihood cause other Capitalists who do have Living Wage workers to team up against these price-fixing Landlords because it does directly affect how much the Capitalists now have to pay their workers.
If the minimum wage had simply been set at $15 dollars, employers would most likely blame having to pay $15 dollars instead of blaming landlords for the unethical raise in rent to exploit tenants.
There’s a mathematical formula to calculate Living Wage, for every city and town is different. The May Day General Strike is using MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)’s Living Wage Calculator, which can be applied worldwide to each and every city or town. Users can determine Living Wage by inputting the cost of food, child care, health care, housing, other necessities, and tax values. For each individual city and town the amount varies, from 1 Adult without a child to 1 Adult with 3 children and other variables, but most importantly it provides us with a mathematically formulated amount for people worldwide to use as their foundation.
Ideally, the Living Wage should be recalculated annually, if not quarterly, so that no one anywhere is ever being paid less than a Living Wage.
At the bottom of this page is a link to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator.
The May Day Fight Abroad
International corporations are traveling to the most remote corners of the world to find nations with the least (if any) human and workers’ rights laws to prevent any interference in their exploitations of workers. This ensures the greatest amount of profits/dividends for their shareholders by paying workers the least amount of money in unsafe workplaces.
Workers worldwide must unite, if we’re to ever stop these perpetual assaults on humanity.
Workers often have to provide not just for themselves but for their children, elderly, or others who are physically unable to work. When these workers make less than a Living Wage it no longer affects just the worker but the entire household. Therefore, worker exploitation becomes oppression of humanity.
In order for exploited workers who are making less than a Living Wage to rise up and live a dignified life without fear of becoming homeless, not knowing when their next meal will be, keeping clothed, having the utilities shut off, or even resorting to crime to make ends meet, then all workers (white collar, blue collar, well paid, poor) must stand together in solidarity.
This benefits more than just the poor. When workers are paid less than a Living Wage they are forced to swallow whatever pride they might have and apply/plead for government financial assistance, which results in increased taxes for all workers. When employers actually pay their employees a Living Wage, the employees no longer have to ask for financial assistance, thus decreasing all workers’ taxes, increasing their disposable income, increasing sales within their communities, and stimulating the economy.
This is how you create economic growth. However, most Conservatives proclaim that supply side (supply side/trickle-down/Reaganomics) economics where the rich (the so-called “job creators”) are taxed as little as possible is the most effective means of creating economic growth, even while the taxes go up for the middle class and poor, and the minimum wage stays as low as possible. The belief is that the rich “job creators” will then use their increased profits to give raises and hire more workers. However, the company profits which are created by the workers’ production and/or services are seldom being reinvested into hiring more workers (at least not locally).
Company CEOs and Boards of Directors are serving the best interests of their Shareholders, who more often than not want the company’s profits to go to themselves through dividends. If a company’s CEO and Board decide to reinvest the company’s profits back into the company then seldom do they do so by giving raises to the workers or hiring more workers when instead they can invest it overseas in cheaper labor, thus giving the company and their Shareholders a greater return on their investment. The Workers are merely commodities.
When wealthy Shareholders receive an increase in their disposable income they are more likely to reinvest that money in Capital investments like the stock market instead of spending it in their local communities, whereas when minimum wage workers have newfound disposable income, they are more likely to spend it locally (dining out, shopping), creating real economic growth.
It is the workers who should determine the minimum wage that humans should be paid. The current minimum wage is an inhumane starvation wage and must become a Living Wage.
The demand for the minimum wage to be a Living Wage isn’t a political issue; it is a human rights issue. It’s as much of a human rights cause as is genocide, slavery, and famine. For a company to pay even one of their full-time workers less than a Living Wage is a crime against humanity.
When overseas workers are paid less than a Living Wage it undercuts the market for the rest of the world, which results in other companies having to either cut their workers’ pay, “outsource” their labor overseas (resulting in jobs lost locally), or go out of business (also resulting in jobs lost locally). This results in the companies that are the most exploitive towards their workers being the most lucrative, increasing their stock value for Shareholders like those of Apple, who “outsources” their manufacturing to China with a company that has suicide nets to prevent any further suicides by workers who choose death over their inhumane working conditions.
“United we bargain, divided we beg.”
Share the May Day General Strike event or join the May Day General Strike Facebook group (links provided below) to discuss any ideas and questions and to encourage others to create local May Day General Strike groups to organize within their workplaces, towns, and communities.
“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
– Nelson Mandela
Currently the 48 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the bottom 3 billion people. Meanwhile, an estimated 21,000 die daily from hunger and hunger-related causes.
Since originally creating the Facebook event May Day General Strike, the Solidarity Facebook page has been flooded with messages from people worldwide asking: where is the May Day General Strike being held?
I would like to readdress that it’s dependent upon each worker and their coworkers to determine which type of Strike is best suited for them at their workplace.
However, for those whose companies pay all their workers a Living Wage, those who are currently unemployed, those who are disabled, and for those who can’t strike at their place of employment (for whatever reason), we would like to find an alternative public location to strike and/or protest “The Minimum Wage Must Be A Living Wage!” for each local community.
Solidarity strongly encourages people to unite with other local May Day events/protests, as there truly is strength in numbers. This includes “A Day Without Immigrants”, which will be protesting all throughout the U.S. and Canada. Immigrants know all too well that the minimum wage is a starvation wage and are also likely to support “The Minimum Wage Must Be A Living Wage!”
This call for a global general strike on May Day (May 1st, 2017) might not fix everything, but its success would greatly improve the quality of life for millions, if not billions of people, while saving countless lives.
Stand and join us for this historical event.
May Day General Strike (FB event)
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