The history of May Day is a history of the struggle of working people to achieve a better way of life, decent pay, working conditions and for a society that meets the needs of the people.
The International Labour Holiday called May Day, actually originated in the United States in 1884 at a conference of U.S. and Canadian Trade Unions.
The conference decided to launch an intense campaign for the 8-hour day and to culminate the struggle on May 1st 1888.
May Day Marches in Victoria started in 1893 and continued every year up to today, except for 1941 and 1942 (war time).
Many other events are celebrated each year in Australia: royalty birthdays, cup day, military exploits, religious beliefs, etc, but May Day is the only day in the calendar where workers’ struggles are celebrated and workers’ demands are publicised.
The labour movement and the trade union movement should continue to build this day as it is the working people’s day.
In recent times, the Melbourne May Day Committee has organised for the focus to be on workers’ rights – the right to strike, to picket, to assemble, to take solidarity action. Rights which are largely denied to workers in Australia. We must continue to build a movement to win those rights. We will demonstrate these demands again on May Day this year.
As well as these fundamental rights we are focusing on other issues impacting on the working class in Australia, which obviously includes precarious work (sub contracting, casual, etc), unequal pay for women, the off-shoring of jobs to low wage, super-exploited labour in other countries, poor occupational health and safety standards, poor injured workers’ compensation laws and systems and so on.
In addition workers at May Day will be demanding the withdrawal of Australian forces from Afghanistan and an independent foreign policy, proper civilised, humane and welcoming treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
We continue to demand support for the Aboriginal people’s struggles for sovereignty, land rights, jobs and dignified community conditions.
As always May Day maintains its support for socialism to replace capitalism, and its total opposition to imperialist wars of aggression because in the long run we see no solution to the problems of war, poverty, exploitation, environmental destruction and insecure jobs and existence within the capitalist global system.