Cries of “organize, don’t fool around, PLU’s a union town,” and other chants will be heard all across campus on May 1, a date known to many as International Workers’ Day.
The PLU club Students of the Left is hosting a May Day workers’ rights rally in Red Square at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 1. The rally will bring together students and faculty alike to show support for the working classes and to support PLU’s contingent faculty’s right to unionize.
“I’m participating in the May Day rally on campus…because worker’s rights are human rights,” said PLU student Kirsty Palmer. “Every person deserves respect and fair compensation for what they do.”
International Workers’ Day might be an unfamiliar holiday to many Americans, but outside the United States, the day is widely observed with speeches, rallies, and demonstrations in support of worker’s rights.
The first May Day has its roots in American soil. It began with the labor movement and the fight for an eight-hour work day in the 1800s. In 1877, thousands of railroad, factory, and mine workers went on strike, marking the first major mass action taken in order to improve wages and working conditions.
By 1884, the many actions that followed the initial strike led to the predecessor of the American Federation of Labor to adopt a new resolution stating, “that eight hours shall constitute legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” And so, May Day was born.
The day was never officially recognized by the United States, but spread to other parts of the world. International Workers’ Day is a national holiday in more than 80 countries worldwide.
Starting in 2006, many American unions have reclaimed the day as a day of protest, using it as an opportunity to express solidarity with the working classes and to air any grievances about unfair wages, poor working conditions, or nonexistent benefits.
Last year, what started as a peaceful May Day March in Seattle hit headlines when a small group of violent protesters broke store windows, blocked traffic, and assaulted multiple people. Police arrested eleven of the protesters.
PLU’s own May Day rally will directly acknowledge and support the contingent faculty’s ongoing fight for unionization. It will also support workers’ rights in a more general sense. The idea for the rally began with a new on-campus organization, Students of the Left. Students of the Left is headed by Kenneth Stancil, ’13, who says he hasn’t heard of much, if any negativity about the event.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised and really happy with student, staff, and faculty support of the event,” said Stancil. The Political Science and Global Studies student also noted that the group looks forward to putting on an event “that gets people excited about the possibility of fundamental social transformation.”
Speeches will be given by various PLU students serving as representatives for on campus clubs and organizations such as GREAN, Latinos Unidos, Progress, the Diversity Center, and the Women’s Center.
“The message is to connect the dots between injustices identified in the world and collectively rise to take a stance against them,” said Carly Brook, another organizer of the event and member of Students of the Left. Brook is also excited about what the rally might mean beyond the rally. “I’m excited to see where this radical hope in systematic change and collective raising of voices will lead Students of the Left and PLU in the future.”
Professor Michael Ng, a contingent faculty member at PLU, will also deliver a short speech about unionization efforts and working conditions at the university.
Attending students will be allowed the opportunity to sign a petition in support of unionization for contingent faculty at PLU. Organizers hope to collect 350 signatures (approximately 10 percent of the student population) demanding that the university cease using tuition dollars to impede the unionization of contingent faculty.
-This article written with contributions from Leah Traxel