Today In Philadelphia: Celebrating May Day, International Workers' Day

Remember the eight-hour work day? It was brought to you by labor unions, who are using May Day, otherwise known as International Workers' Day, to honor workers and their struggles with an event at Elmwood Park, 71st and Buist Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia. The event begins at 3 p.m. today, Wednesday, and will include music, poetry and speeches.

Interesting this year is that the celebration is co-sponsored by Philadelphia labor unions and Occupy Philadelphia.

"The origins of May Day hold important lessons for all of us, but especially for workers and rights advocates right now who continue to face a seemingly relentless wave of “austerity” programs.  Just a few days ago, we witnessed hundreds of textile workers in Bangladesh being crushed by unfettered corporate greed.  A key message of our celebration today is that we are better than this – humanity can do better than this. Four immigrant workers were hung by the neck until dead in Chicago in the 1880s and other workers died in the great struggle for the eight-hour day. Today’s May Day event hopes to remind Philadelphians and all Americans of our place in international labor history and also inspire us to fight all the harder against corporate greed which continues to crush our fellow workers around the world,”  said Jim Moran, chair of the May Day education committee.

This year, four people are being honored for their human rights work. The "Aggie Moran Human Rights" award is named after Moran's wife, now deceased. Recipients are poet Sonia Sanchez; labor historian Alice Hoffman; the Restaurant Opportunities Center and  Barbara Rahke, who heads PhilaPOSH, the workers' organization that tries to improve workplace health and safety.

It's just a coincidence, but today, there's a Philadelphia Inquirer story describing the unionization of a group of charter school employees. They overwhelmingly chose to become affiliated with a union. 

One more note, today is the day that Catholics celebrate the saint day of Joseph the Worker, a carpenter and the guardian of Jesus. On this day, I don't think it hurts to keep workers in our prayers, that they be safe, that they have jobs that give them dignity and a living wage and that those who don't have work remember that God loves us all, regardless of our employment status.