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The Mayday protest I attended in Dallas had about 150 participants.

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Mark York and Lorraine Montemayor of Dallas AFL-CIO were among the Mayday protesters

It was probably the largest Mayday Protest in Dallas since the anti-communist witch hunt began in 1946. Certainly, it was the biggest one I’ve seen, because we normally don’t have anything at all on International Workers Day. Even if we had, it wouldn’t have had union support.

There were Mayday actions all over the United States, for a change. Usually, they have them all over the world EXCEPT for the United States. That’s how things are changing.

What Do We Get Done?

I’ll be the first to admit that the Mayday protesters were there for different reasons. A lot of them probably didn’t know that the Workers Defense Project had organized the event specifically to target Wells Fargo Bank for having financed the scandalous immigrant detention centers in Texas. It’s not likely that Wells Fargo management is going to change its habits just because of this picket, so people might legitimately ask, why come?

I can think of a list of reasons:

  • Every public action is a training ground for the future struggles that will, must, come
  • Well-done actions help us get better organized for the future
  • When people see us protesting, they are just a little bit less afraid than before
  • We need to develop leaders, and leadership comes out of struggle
  • Camaraderie feels right, feels good
  • Taking sides against our common foes feels right, feels good
  • Our actions impart critical information not otherwise available
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A Workers Defense Project staffer named Jason gathered contact info for all the participants 

So, in the short run, people protest because we like doing it. In the longer run, we do it because the general direction of politics in the United States is going against working people and must be changed. Building a strong workers’ movement isn’t just one of many ways to change America, it is ultimately the only way.

It’s Not Easy

Building a workers movement that can stand up to our employers will not happen spontaneously. It will have to be built, and it will take hard work. Right now, Americans do not understand what is happening to them and they don’t know what to do about it. Even if they did, they’re mostly too afraid to try. Every person who turns out for public actions is chipping away at those obstacles!

-Gene Lantz

Find me at http://knon.org at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday

 

 

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The official report says only 38,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in May. Economists say 200,000/month are needed. At the same time, the unemployment rate dropped because so many unemployed people answered “no” when they were asked if they were looking for a job. They call that “dropping out of the labor force.” The participation rate has been really low since 2008.

If they counted the people too discouraged to look for a job and the millions of people forced against their will to hold part-time jobs, the unemployment rate would be 10-11% and it would make a lot more sense.

Shorten the working hours

The obvious solution to the ravages of unemployment is to shorten working hours. One could write an entire history of the United States just on the issue of the fight to decrease the hours of work. The fight reached its zenith with the worldwide political strike of May 1, 1886, which focused on Chicago. They hanged the leaders of the 8 hour day movement.

Unions in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) demanded lower working hours throughout their history. “30 for 40 with no cut in pay” was their demand, and they kept it up until they disappeared into the AFL-CIO in 1955. Since then, unions have asked for more wages and more benefits, but not for shorter hours. I don’t know why.

Our big partial victory was the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandated that employers pay time-and-a-half when hourly workers put in more than 40 hours in a week. They have been fighting over that act since then. The current battle is because President Obama wants more workers to qualify for overtime pay, and the bosses, of course, don’t. They’d like to hang the President, too.

–Gene Lantz