On May 1st, International Workers Day, the youth of the Philippine National Democratic movement across Canada sends the warmest greetings to all working peoples who are struggling against capitalist exploitation but determined to build our socialist future.
We have a world to win
With our collective action, we have achieved historic victories. The first May Day in the Philippines was celebrated even when it was under colonial rule. Over 100,000 workers joined the first ever Labor Day mobilization organized by the Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas (UODF) in 1903. They marched to the government palace on the first of May to demand better working conditions. Their main call: “Kamatayan sa Imperyalismo!” (Death to Imperialism!)
From the late 19th to early 20th century the international organization of socialist and labor parties declared May 1st to be International Workers’ Day. The first was observed in 1889 when workers demonstrated that change can happen by asserting their interests. A working day was a grueling 16 hours but through collective assertion working hours was successfully reduced to eight hours.
Most recently, the sweet victory of the campaign to save Mary Jane Veloso, an overseas Filipina worker and a victim of human trafficking, from death penalty in Indonesia is sparked by militant collective struggle and strong solidarity with the countless people from across the international community. The unfolding of this historic event inspires us to journey with the masses.
We remain hopeful and defiant
With our current conditions, workers still suffer from the backlash of global capitalism. The working class people, comprised broadly by youth, are very much affected by the continuing crisis of capital accumulation.
Here in Canada education workers and students fought for fair deal as they drown with rock-bottom wages, face precarious work environments, and pursue their studies without any security that jobs will available for them. Particularly in Quebec, thousands of people were mobilised against the increasing austerity affecting post-secondary institutions. Similarly, there is a growing clamor to go beyond bargaining in Saskatchewan.
In Ontario, if we really want to make the youth count, we need to link our struggles to the working class. As much as workers need our pay upsized, $15 per hour would still be eaten up by the increasing costs of housing, household operations, and education. The site of worker power is organising not just for additional coins in our wages but for the change that would end intergenerational cycle of poverty.
In Alberta we also join in mobilising community support to let Vicky Venancio, a temporary foreign worker who became quadriplegic through an accident in Edmonton, stay in Canada. For years, we have been supporting the fight of migrant workers under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for fair wages, dignity, and recognition of their rights.
In British Columbia, great potentials are realized in cases where the legal battles are won. There is the case of a Filipina domestic helper who was maltreated and held as a “virtual slave” in a Richmond hotel. We also recount the story of Leticia Sarmiento, whose former employer was convicted in a landmark human trafficking case in 2013. There is a quality of hope when people collectively fight for their rights.
Overseas Filipino workers are worth more than the billions that they remit to keep the Philippine economy afloat. There still remain a number of workers, whose lives make up the backbone of the current economy, that are unaccounted for.
We carry the fight back to the roots
In the current era of imperialism, the escalation of labour rights violations continue in the desperate attempt of the ruling class to keep the existing system away from its crumbling status.
In the home front, widespread unemployment and underemployment, plus the government’s push for the K to 12 curriculum over the thrust in cheap exportable labor make things worse. Neoliberal agenda persist while endangering the lives of our kababayans. Kristel Tejada, a University of the Philippines (UP) student, committed suicide in March 2013 as she could no longer afford to pay her tuition fees, in spite of the fact that she excelled in her academics. Similarly, a Cagayan State University student Rosanna Sanfuego was pushed to abandon her dreams to the point of ending her own life. She passed away in February 2015.
Moreover, the tragic murder of Jennifer Laude, a 26-year old transgender woman, by a US marine is a clear result of the prolonged US military presence in the Philippines. Her story reminds us how past and present local bureaucrats continue to place the Filipino people vulnerable under the violence of imperialist powers.
Despite the landlord BS Aquino’s boastful (in truth, shallow) remarks about the growth of Philippine economy, the root causes of the problem of abject poverty are still not addressed under his regime. Land reform and national industrialization are not taken as genuine and long-term solutions to the joblessness in the country.
We are revolted by current regime’s pretentious character, saying lies to save his face from gross negligence of his responsibility. We vow to wage stronger support the growing voices of dissent that BS Aquino must go. No more BS: step down or be ousted! We continue to push forward the establishment of a transition council that would follow the democratic principles of governance.
The issues of the youth are not divorced from the issues of the marginalised peoples in the Philippines. Thus, we call on Filipino youth to join us to celebrate the international struggles of all oppressed people in the world. For us in the national democratic movement, let us renew our commitment to fight for what our people and communities need. Let us together remember and learn from those that we have lost and advance the struggles with the victories that we have gained. Let us strive to move forward towards the future with just and lasting peace.
Disenteng trabaho sa Pilipinas, hindi sa labas! (Decent work in the Philippines, not overseas!)
Migranteng kabataan, Anak ng Bayan! Natutong lumaban dahil sa kahirapan! (Migrant youth, children of the nation! Carrying on to fight against their oppression!)
Makibaka, huwag matakot! (Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!)
Long live international solidarity!
Migrante Youth BC
Migrante Youth Alberta
Migrante Youth Ontario