May 1, 2020, marks the 115th anniversary of May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, an annual event that draws attention to the importance of workers’ needs, struggles, and accomplishments.
This May Day is unique as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all workers in our communities. Thankfully, through joint effort and perseverance, it is those same workers that are stepping up, remaining at work to ensure that essential services are impacted as little as possible. As our cities went into lockdown in order to combat the virus it was workers who answered the call. Frontline workers are keeping our communities safe, our loved ones healthy, and food on our tables; without them, we would be facing a much worse situation.
May Day reminds us of the victories that generations of workers have fought for while striving for peace, democracy, human rights, and decent work for millions of people: the eight-hour workday, weekends, minimum wage, health and safety standards, the ability to retire with dignity, sick leave, maternity leave, the right to organize, and much more. All these rights and accomplishments that we often take for granted were won by workers who had to fight hard for them every step of the way.
Although there have been countless victories by workers, precarious work and unsafe conditions still remain. This is especially true for groups such as immigrants, those who are differently-abled, and students. Students are funnelled into industries that rely upon high turnover rates and offer insecure, undervalued, and underpaid work. Because of this students and young people have long been at the forefront of the workers’ movement and we count ourselves as their allies. As many workers start organizing as students, they are aided by having a unique perspective and bring that perspective to the workers’ movement.
On this May Day, hundreds of thousands of students have been met with a harsh reality that they may not be able to work this summer and save for the upcoming academic year. The challenges of affordability of post-secondary education have been compounded by the worst economic recession our country has experienced in nearly 100 years. As jobs and the economy slowly open over the next many months, let’s commit that together we will fight to move forward – not go backwards. Let’s fight for better wages, stronger protections, and more rights for all workers. We all deserve it.