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‘A struggle that never ends’

Unite joins the world in celebrating working-class solidarity on May Day
Hajera Blagg, Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Millions of people have taken to the streets in countries across the world today on May Day (May 1) in the largest celebration of working-class solidarity and achievements in the world.


In London alone, the city’s annual May Day celebration drew tens of thousands of people, who marched through the streets of the capital to a rally in Trafalgar Square.


Unite members joined marches in London and across the UK, including in Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield and other towns and cities.


Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner today (May 1) spoke at a May Day rally in Bristol, where he highlighted a wave of strikes that started in the city 130 years ago, many of which were led by women.




He spoke of the Bristol branch of Gas Workers’ Union, which joined forces with the London branch and together they successfully fought for better pay and working conditions. These strikes sparked a fire that then led to the Bristol Dock strikes, strikes among women cotton workers at the Barton Hill Mill, and later Sanders’ Sweet Factory women workers struck, too.

“The lessons of the Sanders’ women is that it’s the working class that makes its own history and that it’s only us that will keep it alive,” Turner said. “We’ve always stood up for democracy and we must never take that democracy for granted.”


Tribune Magazine today highlighted the origins of May Day with an account from the late historian Eric Hobsbawn. He wrote on the centenary of May Day celebrations in 1990 that it was important to remember the history of May Day because “it demonstrates the historic power of grassroots thought and feeling, and illuminates the way men and women who, as individuals, are inarticulate, powerless and count for nothing can nevertheless leave their mark on history.”



As Unite Scotland highlighted, central to the first May Day demands in 1890 was the call for an eight-hour working day:


But May Day is more than just reflecting on historic struggles.

Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said that trade unionists coming together more than a century ago to successfully demand a shorter working day should serve as inspiration for future goals and demands.


“Today, we should use May Day to not only commemorate the struggles of the past but also to plan for the fights to come,” she told UNITElive. “Automation must not mean job losses and work must remain a central pillar of society. Automation is an opportunity to deliver a shorter working week with no loss of pay.”



Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn too said May Day should remind us of the challenges we face in the future:


The TUC marked May Day on social media by highlighting the importance of being part of a trade union and fighting for trade union rights:

As did Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke:

And London Mayor Sadiq Khan:

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey who is set to speak at May Day rallies at the weekend, including in Liverpool, Sheffield, and Manchester, called for strong trade unions as “the best guarantee of holding on to what we’ve secured”.


Keep May Day’s legacy alive by joining a trade union. Find out more here. 



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