2017: The significance of May Day
Laura García interviews Richard Monje on the significance of May Day. He is the Manager Chicago & Midwest Region International Executive Vice President, Workers United.
Laura Garcia: What is the significance of May Day in today’s times?
Richard Monje: May Day signifies a very important moment for the working class. It’s a time to examine our experience and put forward a program and vision of what needs to be done. Even though the historical content of May Day has been lost to most in the U.S., it’s still an important day throughout the world. In the U.S., the immigrant marches of 2006 brought it back to the U.S.
The process of the dismantling of the infrastructure of capitalism, including the workers’ organizations and institutions, began in the 1970s. This saw the reversal of what you might consider a society engaged to solve society’s problems to one where society’s accumulated wealth is not negotiated with the working class.
Under Reagan, George W. Bush, even under the Clinton administration, and now under Trump, this process is going to a new level.
During the Ronald Reagan era, a section of the working class adopted the ruling class’ criminalization of the youth as our principal problem, and a section of the trade union movement came to the side of Reagan. In this way, the workers were distracted from what was really taking place. Capitalism was being dismantled and reconfigured in a way to allow unlimited profitability by moving work globally.
This shift left a vacuum. The U.S. worker, who in the past was the motive force of creating the wealth of society, was left jobless. Gone were the opportunities that the exchange of commodities and the national market provided.
We find ourselves in a particular moment today where the social consequences of these economic and political developments are reaching a higher and higher level. This May Day, we have to examine what must we do different. What did we learn in the last 40 years? What worked and what didn’t? This is our challenge.
L.G.: What is your message to the undocumented this May Day?
R.M.: It’s the same message we’re trying to say to every sector of the workers — to those who feel under the weight of domestic violence to the inequality in the workplace; to the African Americans who feel the pressure of the potential killing of their children in the street and to the workers in the Rust Belt areas in West Virginia, Pennsylvania Ohio Indiana, Wisconsin Illinois, Michigan.
It’s to say:
You are the workers who built of the dams, the electrical grid, the interstate system, car manufacturing, and the ability to go to the moon. Your labor accomplished the technological wonder in the US, and now you’re being cast out of this system?
So it’s time for you to design a new way of operating, you who are the discarded auto workers, or steel workers, you who are living in an African American community or undocumented traveling sometimes thousands of miles to try to stabilize your family and survive all of these things.
The principal question to the undocumented is that they are no longer isolated in rural areas, in agricultural areas working for contractors and farmers in the fields that abuse them and their children. Now their children are in school and are stabilized. For the most part, they are part of the working class.
Our challenge today — a vision for the future.
Today, the battle is for the survival of society, our communities, for a future of our families, for whether there will be a future. That has to be answered by concrete practical steps towards something, not against something.
That’s what we need this May Day, to start that visualization of what do we want and what are we fighting for.