(what follows are my remarks made at the may day rally)
Greetings (from my union which I will not name here)….. I was thinking this morning about what I wanted to say about the importance of this day – why is May 1st crucial to recognize? And rather than come up with a list of causes we support or government policies we oppose – I was thinking instead about a trip I made to Colombia almost two years ago. And I was remembering some of the trade unionists and campesinos I met with there – people literally engaged in struggles of life and death over land, labour rights, and basic human dignities that many of us take for granted.
As you all know, Colombia has one of the worst human rights records and is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. It is a country ruled by a government that has privatized all public services, that supports bands of paramilitary thugs to keep the poor in line, and is ruthless in the murder of all opposition.
It would be too simple to tell ourselves as privileged Canadians that while it’s terrible “down there” we are somehow immune to such conditions. But make no mistake – as evidenced today with economic collapse on the horizon – Colombia is a logical outcome of the lawless capitalism of George Bush and Stephen Harper. Two leaders who are eagerly pursuing Free Trade agreements with Uribe and are forcing their own citizens to swallow undemocratic processes such as the Security Prosperity Partnership. Two governments actively engage din attacking the poor, public services, and workers rights. As our own economic base erodes we can only expect more of such attacks and it is important as working people that we have strategies to resist with.
And so I come back to why May 1st is important? Because today I think about my union friends in Colombia and the tremendous danger they face. Because today we remember all the struggles that brought us here to this place. Because today we can together imagine the world we wish to win – standing shoulder to shoulder with workers around the world in opposition to the anti-human and anti-earth policies of our capitalist politicians.
The struggles of one are the struggles of all. I stand in solidarity for making May Day ours again!