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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- Even if the Anakbayan partylist's P125 across-the-board wage increase bill is enacted into law today, it will still not be enough to “bring decent standard of living” to the sector that has been ironically called the “backbone of society.”
“A large wage hike (such as the P125-increase petitioned by labor groups) may not bring a decent standard of living to poor families although this will substantially improve their welfare,” a study by Ibon, Foundation reads.
According to Ibon, Foundation, the family living wage (FLW) for a family of six in the National Capital Region (NCR) is P975, more than twice the current minimum wage of P404, or a difference of P571.
“This indicates the poor quality of life that minimum wage earners in Metro Manila can afford. This contrasts with, for example, the amount spent by the richest 10 per cent of families in NCR who average PHp 18,041 per month just on food,” the Ibon study reads.
Here, Francisco Pagayaman, Anakpawis-Northern Mindanao Coordinator, said that outside the NCR—like Cagayan de Oro—the cost of living for a family of six is P802. While the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB), under Wage Order No RX-16, is only up to P286 for non-agriculture workers. Agricultural workers minimum wage is only up to P274.
“Amidst the promise of President (Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s) ‘righteous path,’ in our region, (job) security, union-busting, low and unjust wages, massive retrenchment, privatization of government institutions among others have been the primary issues that workers are confronted with,” Pagayaman said.
He added that the sector’s slogan: Workers unite! We have nothing to lose but the chains of oppression, “is much alive today” because of the pressing situation of the labor sector.
City Mayor Vicente Emano joins the call for a genuine living wage citing the important role of the labor sector in the development of society.
“We should look for ways to increase in wages or at least additional benefits to our workers. Let us not forget that without them (workers), our country will not progress,” Emano said.
Commemoration or celebration
Today, the Kilusang Mayo Uno-Northern Mindanao Region (KMU-NMR) commemorated the 110th International Labor Day with an indignation march from the Provincial Capitol to Magsaysay Park, D.V. Soria, this city.
At least a thousand delegates joined the march and held a three-hour rally program at D. V. Soria. The delegates coming from the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Gingoog and the provinces of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon composed of industrial, agricultural workers, and government employees from local union chapters and affiliates of Kilusang Mayo Uno and Anakpawis.
“The celebration is part of recapturing the spirit of the workers' fight way back 1886, the Haymarket massacre in Chicago when police fired at workers during the general strike for the eight-hour work day call,” said Pagayaman.
“The same spirit and inspiration transcend the Andres Bonifacio-led 1896 Philippine Revolution and more so today amidst the onslaught of the crisis of monopoly capitalists’ globalization,” he added.
For their part, the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole 10) in coordination with the Tripartite Industrial Peace Council of Western Misamis Oriental-Cagayan de Oro (TIPC-WMOCDO) bannered the theme: “Pagtutulungan, Pagbabago, Disenteng Trabaho,” in celebration of the 110th International Labor Day.
The government labor agency featured three major activities, a parade—participated by different labor groups, management sector and non-government organizations—around the city proper, a Labor Day program at the Capitol University Gymnatorium with Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez as the keynote speaker and a one-day Job Fair at SM Cagayan de Oro, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Why May 1?
Before the turn of the century, the standard workday for workers was 12 hours. It was only after thousands of workers in Chicago, USA held a general strike calling for the reduction of 12-hour workday to eight hours’ work for ten hours’ pay.
On May 1, 1886, 35,000 American workers walked out of their workplaces and declared Chicago the center of their national campaign for an eight-hour workday. Three days into the general strike, tens of thousands more, both skilled and unskilled, joined the strike. Between April 25 and May 4, 1886, American workers attended dozens of consultations and marched the streets at least 19 times.
In a workers’ protest meeting on the night of May 4, one of speakers urged the dwindling crowd to “throttle” the law. This provoked Inspector John Bonfield to order his 176 police officers to disperse the meeting, despite the instruction from Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison—who attended the protest meeting—not to disturb the meeting.
Suddenly, during the melee, an unidentified person threw a bomb at the police, killing an officer on the spot. In response, police officers drew out their guns and started firing indiscriminately at the workers, killing and injuring many in the crowd. The bloody incident happened at West Randolph Street Haymarket, thus the monicker “Haymarket Massacre.”
Although they were never able to determine the identity of the bomber, police arrested hundreds of workers and unionists, including eminent speakers and writers, and tried them for murder.
With the lack of credible evidence that the defendants threw or organized the bombing, prosecutors focused on their writings and speeches instead. Presiding Judge Joseph Gary and the 12 jurors all admitted being prejudiced against the defendants. The jury adopted a conspiracy theory without legal precedent and convicted the eight defendants, seven of whom were sentenced to death by hanging.
The trial is now considered one of the worst miscarriages of justice in American history.
Workers around the world—inspired by the American labor movement for a shorter workday—began celebrating May 1 or “May Day,” as an international workers’ holiday. A monument commomorating the "Haymarket Martyrs" was erected in Waldheim Cemetery in 1893.
Americans observed the Haymarket tragedy the strongest in the decade before World War I erupted. However, when the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and other socialist countries officially adopted the day as the international day of the workers many Americans regarded May Day as a Communist holiday. This prompted US President (name) Eisenhower to proclaim May 1 as “Loyalty Day” in 1955.