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Editorial: Long years of struggle for workers

Workers march today to assert labor rights including Endo (end of contract) which has been promised at the beginning of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term. Contractualization of workers or Endo is a scheme in which workers are hired for a period of time, such as five or six months, so that companies could avoid making them regular employees. The Security of Tenure bill is now awaiting final hearing at the Senate and Sen. Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, is optimistic this bill will be passed into law after the mid-term elections.

Workers continue to demand for their rights as they did a hundred years ago. Here is a slice of history: On May 1, 1903, when the Philippines was under American rule, the first labor union called Union Obrero Democratia de Filipinas (UODF) gathered more than a hundred thousand workers and marched from Plaza Moriones in Tondo to Malacanang, demanding for fairer working conditions.

The labor union was founded in February 2, 1902 by Isabelo delos Reyes and Herminigildo Cruz. Similar to the present unions, it fought for labor rights for which Delos Reyes was arrested for sedition, rebellion and “conspiracy to raise the price of labor.” He was succeeded by Dominador Gomez, who was also arrested on the same grounds as Delos Reyes.

Six years later, on April 8, 1908, the Philippine Assembly passed a law that recognized May 1 as Labor Day, declaring it as a national holiday. On May 1, 1913, the other founder of UODF, Herminigildo Cruz, organized the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas. It lobbied for fair working conditions for the labor sector which included 8-hour working days, abolition of child labor, equal labor standards for women, and liability of the employers to their employees.

Labor Day is the time when the country’s workforce take to the streets and call for just wages, good working conditions, better treatment from employees and other needs that have to be met by big business and the government.

Their history is a long history of struggle well into this digital age. We are alll benefitting from their sacrifices and daily toil. Let this day count.


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