As I enjoyed Labour Day with colleagues at a party yesterday, my mind wandered off deep into history to an event that took place on Tuesday May 4, 1886, known as the Haymarket affair or the Haymarket riot at the Haymarket Square in Chicago, USA.
What had began as a peaceful rally in support of workers that were protesting the killing of several workers the previous day by the police, turned violent when an unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at the Police who were dispersing the crowd.
The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians leaving scores more wounded.
In the resultant legal proceedings that were internationally publicized, eight members of the riots were convicted on evidence that they built the bomb; seven of those convicted were sentenced to death while the eighth member was given a 15-year jail term.
The Haymarket Affair is considered as the origin of international May Day observances for workers and is promoted by the international labour movement and Marxists whose ideology roots for the rights of workers.
In a post-cold war environment that’s still largely hostile to Marxist and other socialist holdings, it’s a good thing to see that at least even modern-day capitalist driven corporate firms observe the day in recognition of the importance of human labour.
But critics of May Day celebrations charge that the day is for anarchists, in reference to the elements that threw the bomb during the Haymarket protests, leading to deaths and injuries.
But what we can perhaps all agree on is that modern day workers still experience the same problems at workplaces that their 1886 counterparts faced.
The world has surrendered to the market forces of demand and supply and because there’s an oversupply of labour, the price/value of workers has sunk to its lowest and employers don’t really care so they hire and fire at the slightest provocation.
Workers in many parts of the world have become modern-day slaves who have to work to live. Governments are fighting to attract investments into their countries but the plight of workers operating the heavy engines of the investors’ factories is so dire to even imagine.
Men and women are giving over 15 hours a day, working hard for peanuts at the end of the month while earning billions for firms that repatriate their profits; governments don’t care that much as long as they get their share of the revenues to bankroll their budgets.
Workers need a modern day Carl Marx but politicians who subscribe to socialist or Marxist ideologies aren’t that popular in today’s politics that are sponsored by capitalist mafia keen on sending, into power, their own men to safeguard the corporate interests of private firms.
And don’t count on the media; they too are compromised by their commercial interests. Some of the countries’ largest corporate firms are, easily also among the worst employers but they’re also un-reportable in the press because of their multi-million advertising budgets.
As universities continue to churn out more graduates, they clog the labour market with cheap skilled hands; this further devalues the worth of workers who for every single vacancy available, there’s a hundred of them willing to work.
The situation has firmly put employers back in the master’s seat. Those in employment are willing to work their bottoms flat to keep the job while those on the outside are willing to work for almost nothing to get on the payroll.
With meager salaries at the end of the month, one worker must have at-least three other side jobs working through the nights, lunch and weekends to satisfy all masters at the expense of their health, family and leisure.
Meager salaries have also opened doors for shrewd bankers, who, knowing that workers are earning too little as to enable them save, devised the addictive salary advances where one draws ahead of their salary and when it finally comes, the bank claims it forcing you to pick another overdraft.
So today’s worker has to keep toiling to pay the bank for stopping would be risking to lose everything that they have acquired on loan. So if you know someone who has voluntarily walked away from employment, salute them for me.