Report from Roberto of SI Cobas Italy on May Day 2020 Worldwide

WORKERS FIGHTING DEFYING COVID-19 AND REPRESSION The double, health and socio-economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has subjected workers, both male and female, all over the world to the same problems: protecting themselves and their families from contagion and risk of life while they are forced to work, and defending themselves from impoverishment and hunger for people who are jobless due to the closure of businesses. On May 1, the workers' international day of struggle, in most countries workers and trade unions were unable to hold their traditional demonstrations; in most countries, governments, on the pretext of preventing contagion, did not allow holding even small demonstrations in compliance with social distancing and with masks on. Also the Italian Government sent in the police to stop and heavily fine even smDownload PDFall groups of demonstrators.

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However, the iron fist, albeit disguised as sanitary rigour, cannot stop workers' struggles. In
Italy, SI Cobas, together with AdL Cobas, another militant union, reacted since March to the
outbreak of the infection among logistics workers with the request to close all non-essential
activities, guarantee 100% of wages, and calling workers to abstain from work in the absence
of adequate safety conditions: Life before profit! In many warehouses, after days and weeks
of abstention, agreements have been signed to reduce volumes, guarantee anti-infection
safety to those who remain at work, and payment of full wages to those who stay at home. In
other warehouses, the bosses have resisted, playing on workers' fear of losing their jobs - and
replacing them with temps -, on impunity as government decrees provide no penalties for
non-compliant businesses, on police intervention to prevent picketing, and on collaborationist
unions. This criminal policy of the bosses has been responsible for the deaths of many
workers.
That is why SI Cobas and AdL Cobas have called a strike for April 30-May 1, for life
before profits, against the pro-capitalist management of the pandemic by the government and
local authorities, demanding safety in the workplace, full wages for all furloughed workers,
freedom of assembly and strike, universal, free and expanded public health care,
regularization of immigrants, and to make capitalists pay for the crisis with a 10 percent
wealth tax on the richest 10 percent –taking back some of the wealth accumulated on the
exploitation of millions during the last decades. A real strike, not a virtual demonstration.
Thousands of workers, especially in logistics, but also in meat packing plants, have
responded enthusiastically:
https://www.facebook.com/sicobas.lavoratoriautorganizzati.9/photos/pcb.1250021221863239
/1250018855196809/?type=3&theater . Their struggle on the occasion of May Day marks a
point of reference for all workers in Italy who do not want to resign themselves to the supine
passivity of official unions and want to resume the path of struggle.
For this reason we feel particularly close to those in other countries who have gone on strike
or taken to the streets in defiance of possible police intervention.In particular, U.S. workers who on May 1st, a working day, went on strike and drove
caravans through several cities. These included groups of workers at some of Amazon
distribution centers (https://mayday.pacifica.org/2020/05/01/may-day-2020-amazon-strike-
action-in-hawthorne-ca-pt-1/ ) and port and logistics workers in the West Coast, in San
Francisco and Oakland, organized with ILWU - International Longshore and Warehouse
Union (video interviews from their strike and demonstration:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A98SAF9MsDs ). They demanded safety and respect for
workers, and emphasized the working-class and internationalist unity meaning of May Day,
also opposing the right-wing movement of white supremacists, who demonstrated for the
indiscriminate reopening of activities, with Trump's applause, in support of capitalists who
can stay in splendid isolation in their spacious villas.
Our solidarity goes to the protesters in Lebanon, where May 1 saw the continuation of
protests and street riots against the government, by workers, employees and self-employed,
left without work and with no income in the lockdown, no public safety net; there also
working people have seen their wages cut by the 60 percent devaluation of the Lebanese
pound and the ensuing high inflation: it means hunger, which risks reaping more victims than
coronavirus itself. In the previous days the branches of several banks in Tripoli were set on
fire, and on May 1st a crowd demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the Central Bank,
symbol of the financial power of the rich against the proletarians.
News of class struggle also comes from Zimbabwe, where workers in the agribusiness,
represented by the United Food and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe, have decided to
abstain from work and strike because of the lack of protection equipment and to demand that
wages be paid to all workers who lost their jobs because of the quarantine. In addition,
despite the ban on strikes and meetings, workers and the UFAWUZ are setting up
independent online platforms for assembly and discussion.
In many other countries, the most combative workers have challenged the repression and took
to the streets. Below is a partial list of the demonstrations we have heard about.
In Germany the police disbanded marches in Berlin, but could not prevent gatherings of
thousands of young militants and onlookers; sit-ins were organised with banners and
speeches in several cities.
In the UK, on April 30, the international Labour Memorial Day, intensive care nurses of the
St. Thomas Hospital have blocked the Westminster Bridge with banners and posters: “WE
ARE NOT DISPOSABLE”protesting against government coronavirus policy and lack of
protection for healthcare workers, which has caused many casualties among them. This is a
problem common to all countries. Healthcare workers and the whole working class must
struggle against healthcare managed as a business where the bottom line are profits, not the
people’s healtDownload PDFh and lives.
In Greece, thousands of militants, workers and female workers, unemployed and students
gathered in Sintagma Square, outside the Greek parliament, where they demonstrated'responsibly' but firmly. In addition to protection gear, the sit-in was organized with paint or
paper markers at 1 meter intervals in order to keep safety distances.
In Portugal, too, despite the approaching easing of confinement measures, a mobilization has
been called while respecting safety distances and "occupying" the gardens of Avenida da
Liberdade. Workers' demands were alongside those of temporary workers who, due to the
crisis, have already lost their jobs.
In Japan, the Doro-Chiba railway union organized a combative demonstration in front of the
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and in front of the Prime Minister's residence
(https://youtu.be/_EKpBLx4OAQ ).
Also in Korea, the militant trade union KCTU organised local demonstrations in compliance
with anti-infection regulations: https://www.facebook.com/kctueng/posts/1480841265419026
In Turkey, where May Day has a strong tradition, the government arrested 15 trade unionists
from DISK, a radical trade union, as they left their headquarters to lay a wreath on Taksim
Square, where thirty-four demonstrators were killed by the police on May Day 1977. They
were later released, and were allowed to reach Taksim Square. 30 more militants were
arrested in Istanbul and Ankara, and later released.
In Chile, the pDownload PDFolice arrested more than 50 demonstrators wearing gloves and masks in
Santiago's central square, who were carrying signs against exploitation and the sharp increase
in dismissals. In Chile there is a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. Smaller
demonstrations were held in several neighbourhoods.
In Argentina, tDownload PDFoo, the police arrested 13 trade unionists who had unfolded a banner and were
singing the Internationale near the palaces of power; also journalists and photographers who
were filming them were arrested, while a hundred or so militants were demonstrating in the
Obelisk Square with signs: WITH HUNGER, NO QUARANTINE / STOP DISMISSALS.
In South Africa, the government started lifting lockdown measures on May 1, allowing free
demonstrations by the major unions. SAFTU, the radical opposition confederation including
NUMSA, the largest metalworkers' union, demonstrated in Durban, Natal:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wpl2lt3Az4 .
SI Cobas, a multi-ethnic and internationalist trade union, is committed to forging ever closer
ties with militant unions around the world, believing it essential to achieve international unity
of workers, to strengthen their class awareness and their common struggle, both for
immediate working conditions and against capitalism for a better world without exploitation:
https://www.facebook.com/306442629554441/posts/1250917388440289/.

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