Labor May Day

If it wasn’t a holiday today, I would not have been able to blog. I’ve been busy with my summer classes and the like which I promise to blog about later.

In the Philippines, the day marks the celebration of Labor Day, a national holiday that honors workers all over the country. It is marked by parades and gatherings though more often than not, it is a time for airing the grievances of the labor sector through rallies and demonstrations.

History Overview

Labor Day in the Philippines was first celebrated in 1903. Organized by the Union Obrero Democratica de Filipinas (UODF), more than a hundred thousand workers marched to Malacañang on May Day that year to demand better working conditions. The demonstration alarmed the American colonial government. The Philippine Constabulary, composed of Americans and Filipinos, raided the printing press of UODF. They arrested its president, Dominador Gomez, for illegal assembly and sedition.

Undaunted, the labor movement continued its struggle. On May 1, 1913, Congreso Obrero de Filipinas was organized. Led by Hermenegildo Cruz, it battled for an eight-hour working day, abolition of child labor, just labor standards for women, and liability of capitalists. Throughout the years, the Philippine labor movement grew despite some factional differences among adherents. There are now unions for almost every type of worker and these unions are affiliated with some national confederations. The unions help workers gain more benefits under existing labor laws. A militant federation, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), even involves itself in political issues. All these make slogans and streamers during Labor Day rallies more colorful and forceful.


LABOR Day 2008 is unlike other workers’ day. Rice and energy prices have spiraled up around the world, bringing bad news to a country of rice eaters and gas guzzlers. No food shortage yet but the government is encouraging alternatives to rice. Car owners are reviewing their travel habits while public-transport operators are itching for a fare increase.

Families are mulling rice-less days. Consumer groups are busy advising us how to save on water, electricity and gasoline. Coming soon: “The Rise Crisis”, rising electric bills and LPG costs. Environmentalists are warning about a likely water shortage.

The problems are familiar: chronic joblessness, widespread underemployment, stagnating incomes, an unchecked outflow of professionals and skilled workers, and a job-skills mismatch that CHED chairman Romulo Neri was ordered to look into (and hasn’t) that leaves many college graduates jobless and business organizations short on the human resources they badly need.

The good news is that industrial peace is stable (for numerous reasons), the training of the unskilled and out-of-school youth is on schedule, the pace of labor organizing and collective bargaining is respectable but could stand improvement, and the dollar remittances keep coming to feed the OFWs’ families and to buoy the national economy.

A global citizen

The Filipino worker owns a global visa. He toils in more than 100 countries that include the communist states. He works in a wide range of jobs, from housekeeping to keeping healthcare and technology industries together. He is mobile because he mans one-fourth of the world’s shipping on the seven seas.

The workers pay taxes, remit earnings to the Philippines, bear arms for the country when necessary, take part in elections and keep the economy moving. What do they get in return? The millions who work in underpaying jobs need extra income. What help could they expect from the government and the private sector? The totally unemployed who are counted in the labor force could not send their children to school or buy their basic needs. How looms their future?

Growth without jobs

We understand why the Office of the President and the National Economic and Development Authority must prepare long-term development plans and work on meeting their goals. Growth does not happen overnight. Planning however must emphasize growth with jobs and development must translate into higher incomes and improvements in life. Our officials should think Out of the box!!

Planning long term, private business and the state should work together to create a hospitable business and investment climate, open up along constitutional lines business ventures to not just foreigners but also local investors, develop the provinces, make agriculture grow, diversify exports, strengthen not just science, math and technology but also cultural awareness/history and the issues concerning the environment and spread the message of entrepreneurship as an alternative to traditional blue, white and hopefully GREEN - collar jobs.

Labor May Day Labor May Day Reviewed by Vernon Joseph Go on Thursday, May 01, 2008 Rating: 5


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