Between 50 – 60 people from a variety of unions turned up on May 1st at the Paddington Workers Centre in Brisbane to hear some rousing songs, music and poems put on to celebrate May Day under the banner of “Workers of All Countries Unite”.
About 20 of those who attended were artists including Dawn Daylight, Robbie Dunn, Absolutely Scandalous, Combined Unions Choir, Phil Monsour and Jumping Fences.
Everyone joined in to sing ‘Solidarity Forever’ and ‘Joe Hill’.
Ovidio Orellana was the MC and led the singing of ‘The Internationale’ at the close.
Thanks to all the artists and musicians, the sound person and the people who prepared and served the food. The ‘impenyadas’ were great. Thanks to the Paddington Workers Centre for renting out the venue.
Workers of All Countries Unite!
May Day is the international day of workers struggle.
It is a celebration by workers that dates back to the time of the industrial revolution.
There were struggles for the 8 hour day that led to big strikes in places like Chicago in the US involving 400,000 workers.
As a result of that strike four Chicago trade union organisers were executed.
A fifth cheated the hangman by killing himself in prison. Three more were to spend 6 years in prison until pardoned by Governor Altgeld who said the trial that convicted them was characterised by “hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge”.
What was the first union meeting organised in Australia?
Wharfies? Builders’ labourers? Printers?
No, it was the Seamstresses’ Union. Later Emma Miller and May Jordan formed the first womens’ union in Queensland and campaigned against the many sweatshops that exploited women workers. Out of these struggles Emma Miller and others formed Workers’ Political Organisations which were forerunners of the Labor Party.
The idea for a “workers holiday” began in Australia as early as 1856. In Queensland there is a
yearly march of unions and workers political organisations on the first Monday in May.
Traditionally May Day and Labour Day have been celebrated together with workers and socialist groups marching behind the union contingent.
Such is the strength of tradition in Queensland that the annual Labour Day march was exempted from Bjelke-Peterson’s ban on street marches in the late 1970s.
We have organised this May Day celebration to focus on the struggles of all members of our class, of men and women, of employed and unemployed, and importantly of Indigenous workers who own the land and helped build this state.
We organise this day in the hope that we can make it a yearly gathering to improve solidarity in our struggle.