More than 300 people marched for May Day in Wollongong on May 2. The lead banner read: "People before Profits; Export CEOs not Jobs!". There were many different union and community contingents.
Leading the march were workers from Pacific Brands and the Port Kembla steelworks, both under the gun as the economic crisis deepens. Garry Keane, secretary of the Port Kembla branch of the Maritime Union of Australia and president of the local May Day committee, welcomed the crowd and emphasised the need for solidarity in the face of employer attacks.
Fred Moore, legendary trade union activist and life member of the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC), inspired the rally with lessons from history. "It's vitally important that we stay in the streets, because the most important things have always been won in the streets", he said.
"We are now heading for more desperate times, with harsh government laws designed to crush us and turn us into a police state. They have enough laws to keep us down for 100 years, if we're prepared to accept them. But if we increase our numbers and fight back, they'll have a job on their hands."
The rally heard international solidarity greetings from Rene Leal, from the Chilean Communist Party, who explained how the workers are winning in Latin America. "The majority of Latin American countries have declared an alternative to neo-liberalism, led by the nations of Cuba and Venezuela. Now thanks to [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez, we are talking revolution, anti-imperialism and socialism!"
Other speakers included: Annelies Voorthuis from the Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation; Charlie Harvey, associate Professor of economics at the University of Wollongong; Anthony Ashbolt, politics lecturer at the University of Wollongong, and Wayne Phillips from the Australian Workers Union.
Despite the onset of recession, the fighting spirit of May Day was clear. "When the workers are in the streets, the streets belong to the workers", said Moore, to huge cheers. Raising his fist, he concluded with: "We must never let them take us off the streets; we must never give up."