Each year, around May 1st, we Argentine trade unions have the great responsibility of reflecting on a date that is very dear to the entire labor movement. In the Luz y Fuerza Mar del Plata trade union, which belongs to the Autonomous Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA-A) and the Federation of Energy Workers (FETERA), we have always believed that this is a date to carry forward the workers’ movement demands.
It’s not just a date to merely celebrate, because the 1st of May arises as a consequence of the labor movement’s struggles, as a consequence of that fierce repression against the Chicago martyrs who claimed for many of the rights that we are demanding today.
In this 2016, the International Workers’ Day finds us in a country convulsed by fierce austerity measures, layoffs, suspensions, sharp increases in food as well as electricity, gas and transportation rate hikes, all of which had the great mobilization on April 29th as a response. That massive demonstration was indeed historic because for the first time after 25 years the labor movement took to the streets in unity of action, demanding their common rights.
In addition, we need to reflect on the conditions upon which capitalism sustains itself and the exploitation of workers. Without such exploitation there is not surplus value, and without surplus value, there are not extraordinary gains. That is the basis of the capitalist system, and for it to exist, there’s no other way but to design and implement policies that take the workers’ rights away, or not to grant these rights if workers are fighting for it, or to delay the recognition of them.
Nowadays it is very common for a very large number of workers to be in precarious conditions, and what does this mean? It is an exploitation mechanism that produces an effect on all workers who need to live, and in order to make a living they have to sell their labor, and they end up adjusting themselves to the situation so they can put food on their tables.
Precariousness acts as unwritten laws, it acts as a pressure on all workers who do have jobs or do have collective agreements, because it means “workers have to worry about keeping their jobs and not be asking for increases,” or the fact that many workers are dismissed because there are many others out there to replace them.
It is therefore essential that workers can organize themselves in order to generate their own power and develop all possible initiatives to build the necessary understanding of the society we live in, because capitalism always goes back to the same point: it unloads the crises’ effects on the poorest.
Today, as it always has been, the unity of the labor movement is essential. Today, like many times before, we are facing a neoliberal policy against the working class.
Without a doubt, unity of action appears as an unavoidable initiative, but it is also necessary to have a program of demands, to know that trade unions are a key instrument for transformation, and we need to assume the responsibility of the labor movement in the defense of our nation values and sovereignty.