MAY Day is the other name for Labor Day or the International Workers' Day that is observed every first of May. Mayday on the other hand is a distress signal in radio communications usually said three times by mariners, aviators and even police and firefighters to signal a life-threatening emergency.
May Day is non-working holiday in the Philippines. Except for those in organized groups and progressives, Labor Day has assumed a meaning far and beyond the remembrance and celebration of the continuous struggles of workers. Its meaning seems to have been lost to many who reduce it to a mere holiday.
Biggest example of this tendency is "Laboracay" and other Labor Day weekend festivities where solidarity for the working people's plight is definitely not in the agenda.
There is a mayday, a plea, to Filipinos specially the youth to remember and reflect on the true meaning of Labor Day.
Labor Day is the symbol and the product of years of struggles to emancipate working people from unfavorable and oppressive conditions, a struggle that is widely acknowledged and continuous up to the present given the social, political and economic conditions. Many of the rights and privileges of working people today are products of the unrelenting struggle of pioneering labor groups. For example, there was a time in history when working conditions were severe and it was common to work for ten to sixteen hours. Workers today owe it to the indefatigable efforts of labor unions who struggled for the eight-hour workday schedule without cut in pay and the legislation of minimum wage.
Imagine working people's lives today if the pioneering labor unions did not assert this right of workers in the past.
The first Labor Day celebration in the Philippines took place on May 1, 1903. The first labor federation in the country, the Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas, was at the helm of the first celebration. Workers in the thousands marched from Plaza Moriones in Tondo to Malacañang to demand complete independence and the rights of the labor force during the American occupation. Five years later on April 8, 1908, the Philippine Assembly approved a bill making the first day of May a national holiday.
Labor Day's significance is made more meaningful by the reality that the biggest majority of Filipinos including the youth belong to the working class. Many are employed for wages, the source of subsistence for survival.
They are in manual and in skilled labors. Others are in agricultural and industrial occupations, blue-collar jobs, and the service sectors. They belong to the vulnerable sector of society because of unfair labor practices, massive contractualization or lack of security of tenure and non-wage benefits among others.
Labor Day should be a day of reflection and taking stock of what needs to be done to achieve what the International Labor Organization (ILO) of the United Nations calls "decent work". The ILO sums this up as "the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men."
May Day, mayday, mayday.