May Day Celebration

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

May Day Program

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.

May Day Committee

4 thoughts on “May Day Celebration

  1. Union Choir sings 'Private Eyes" says:


  2. Interview with Ark Tribe says:

    Support Ark Tribe, a building worker who is attempting to defy the ABCC legislation that takes away union right to organise for health and safety. Here is an recent interview with Ark Tribe at the BL’s social club.

  3. Politics Absent on May Day says:

    So comrades, come rally
    And the last fight let us face
    The Internationale
    Unites the human race

    People say workers in Queensland are deeply opposed to privatisation of public assets. Others say to keep positive about May Day. But put these comments in the political context at home and abroad.

    The Teachers’ unions Australia-wide backed down on the Federal Labor Government’s insistence that schools be rated using simplistic tests. Now teachers will be forced to conduct an irrelevant test for children in grades 2, 5, 7 & 9. Fair Work Australia laws were used to intimidate teachers into removing their ban. So the union compromised with Gillard. All they got was Minister Gillard agreeing to set up a working party.

    The failure (so far) to call a strike in support of Ark Tribe who is facing jail for trying to get proper health & safety for building workers on a construction job. Ironically Ark and Rudd were on the same platform on Labour Day 2010 in Brisbane but Rudd’s minders made sure he did not get too close to Ark or his BL comrades. Labour Day at the Ekka remains a shermozzle, with beer tents crowded cheek by jowl in the Exhibition grounds where Labour Day is held.

    Only 20-30 people attended the official platform where a Columbian trade unionist spoke eloquently about repression of workers and their unions in his country. Socialist Alternative (is there an alternative to socialism?) reports that on 1 May in Melbourne:

    “… a Colombian trade unionist visiting Australia talked of the continuing battle of workers in Colombia, declaring that although we are separated by oceans and language, and the degree of class struggle is different, the unshakeable truth is that what all workers share in common is class struggle.”

    It was a shame that no one thought to inform his class of the Colombian would speak on the Labour Day platform in Brisbane. There was no mention by the QCU on its website that this person was to speak on labour day, not even left groups were informed or leafletted that this international guest would address the Labour Day crowd (or should I say the beer tents).

    The Qld Government is going on with the privatisation binge in Queensland despite union opposition. Yet unions still give financial support to the ALP. Labor politicians are rubbing their privatisation deal on QR, Ports, Roads and Electricity in the faces of workers who will contribute to their re-election through their unions’ affiliation with the Labor Party. Why contribute to a party that will ignore your wishes and work against your interests. Especially when they sit in cabinet and someone puts up their hand to say, shouldn’t we be concerned with the unions to which the minders say, don’t worry about them the unions will remain affiliated to Labor regardless of what we sell or what we do. One unionist reported:

    During the official addresses to attendees of the QLD Labour Day march the Deputy Premier Paul Lucas received a rousing reception from members of the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) unhappy with the state governments plans to privatise the publicly owned rail infrastructure.

    The federal government has decided existing resource royalties should be replaced by a project-based uniform resource rent tax set at 40 per cent. They do not insist that mining companies build proper housing and services for workers in the mining sector. Many workers still have to ‘fly in, fly out’. The money collected by this tax will end up in middle class welfare and consumerism like the $900 hand out. But where are the towns, schools and hospitals out west to make workers lives even bearable? Boilermakers fly from Brisbane to the Kimberley’s in WA to fix giant mine trucks. They get one day off in three weeks and work 13-15 hours days. Its illegal but the mining companies don’t care they can afford any fine (that is if they get one).

    Meanwhile in Greece, the austerity measures have brought workers onto the streets again. The EU has offered a bailout on the condition that the ‘socialist’ government cut back on wages, pensions and raise the retirement age. Yet not a single euro will be given to Greek workers. For example the German government has promised to retire the debt owed by Greece to German companies. So all the euros will remain in Germany.

    On hearing the news about Greece the US stock market fell 1000 points in the space of a few minutes. Various reasons were given by the pundits — a typo n a share trade [$16 billion was typed instead of $16 million], to nervousness that the world is heading into a double dip recession. We know for sure poor people and poor countries will continue to suffer in the continuing crisis of capitalism.

    The Australian government’s suspension of the racial discrimination act. The cold, stark fact that 7 aboriginal people have died in custody since 20 February 2010. The failure of the criminal justice system to bring justice for Mulrunji and the Bwcolman people on Palm Island.

    Despite these events there has been no real discussion of the issues that underlie the struggle of workers or more importantly any planning to organise resistance to corporate capitalism that causes such events.

    The little talk there is, is confined to economism — analysis based on individual issues..

    While the band plays, the workers are quiet

    Workers shout ‘Queensland not for sale!’
    Yet May Day organisation did not grow
    Now for thirty years we’ve been on our own
    Oh, and while bosses were looking down
    The choir sang those lyrics for you and me
    How Labor privatise Queen’s Land
    All Murri land from quarry to sea

    And while students read a book of Marx
    Now the half time air was sweet perfume
    Unionists played a marching tune
    And in the streets children screamed
    Workers sighed and poets dreamed

    But not a word was spoken.
    Warning bells all broken
    As politicians made their boast
    Workers caught the last train for the coast.
    No rebel born in hell
    Could brake that bosses spell

    As flames climbed high into the night, to light up banks
    I saw bosses laughing with delight,
    And workers cried
    That day organisation died.

    [with thanks to Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’]

    Ian Curr
    May 2010

    Queensland: not for sale!

    Socialist Alternative report on May Day

    Comment from Victorian Teacher, Peter Curtis

    Gillard agrees to set up a working party

    RTB Protest

    Ian Curr
    May 2010

  4. Queensland — Not for Sale! says:


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