May 1 Movement launched in Sydney

February 20, 2020
May 1 Movement launch on February 29 in Sydney. Photo: Warren Smith

Up to 100 people attended the launch of the May 1 Movement at the Maritime Union of Australia’s (MUA) offices on February 19.

The campaign aims to build broad support among unions to take strike action on May Day, the traditional day of working-class action and solidarity that has its origins in the United States in 1886.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Construction and General Division state president Rita Mallia was one of the endorsees. She told the meeting: “We are in a battle with the federal Coalition government over its proposed Ensuring Integrity bill, aimed at dismantling strong unions.

“We will join with other militant unions in striking and marching on May 1. We congratulate the students for showing the way on striking for climate action,” Mallia said, referring to the huge high school student-led strikes for climate they have organised over the past two years.

CFMEU delegate Dennis McNamara said he had attended mass May Day marches around the world, including in Cuba, and challenged union leaders to support the May 1 Movement.

India Pardoel, representing School Strike 4 Climate (SS4C), said students had “unanimously passed a motion in support of a May 1 strike”.

“SS4C has built our movement by striking, but this fight cannot be won by school students alone. The future of my generation, First Nations peoples and workers is in our hands — together.

"Following May 1, SS4C are building support for an international day of action on climate on May 15,” she said.

Jason De Santolo, a Garrwa researcher, National Tertiary Education Union member and First Nations activist, emphasised the history of collaboration between unions and Aboriginal peoples. “We are mobilising to build support in our communities for May 1,” he said.

MUA Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer said “May 1 is a day of workers’ struggle under an internationalist banner”, adding May Day is not “nearly so meaningful being held on a Sunday”, the day of the Unions NSW-called protest.

“This is not just about May 1; it is about building a movement to defend workers’ rights, the rights of the oppressed and to demand real action on climate change”, he continued.

The May 1 Movement committee argued in a statement it released that “mass action will be crucial to a just transition to renewable energy, a decarbonised economy and equality and justice for all”.

It said last May 1, “thousands of workers marched off construction sites, factories and wharves to join with others to demand an end to the federal government’s anti-union laws”, the first time in decades that strike action had been organised on the international day of workers’ solidarity.

It is calling for workers to march under the banner of “workers’ rights, social justice and climate action”.

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