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No Better Way to Spend May Day than on a Picket Line! Support the Rexplas Workers!

Carolyn Egan

May 1, 2021
I spent May Day on a picket line supporting members of my union, United Steelworkers Local 8300, as they showed their strength and unity against a greedy employer. Not a single truck has entered or left the plant since the strike began. It was a perfect way to spend the day giving support to workers who had the courage to stand up against their employer.
The International Socialists join with workers around the world celebrating May Day and  working class struggles from the Paris Commune, the Haymarket Martyrs, Paris 1968, the strikes we have seen recently in India, Nigeria, and mass movements such as Black Lives Matters which make concrete the concept of socialism from below and the possibility of revolutionary change. May Day is a celebration of that legacy.
On May 1, 1886 Chicago, which was a centre of union activity, saw 40,000 workers join 300,000 others who had walked off the job across the country. Another 60,000 joined their ranks as the days went by. On May 3rd at the McCormack Reaper Works the police attacked the protest and killed a number of workers. The following day police tried to disrupt a rally protesting the murders, a bomb went off. This started a wave of anti-worker repression. On flimsy evidence a number of workers were sentenced to death by a biased jury. Progressive people around the world were shocked by the events and the “Haymarket Massacre” brought workers into the streets. A number of years later socialist parties in Europe called for demonstrations on May Day to commemorate the “Haymarket Martyrs”.  In 1890 over 300,000 demonstrated in London. In 1894 the US government moved Labor Day to the first Monday in September to disassociate from the radical roots of May Day. The Canadian state followed suit.
The same spirit and militancy that brought workers to walk off the job in Chicago so many years ago, moved 36, mostly racialized women, to strike April 25th at 12:01am. They had rejected a final offer by their company by 90% and were sick and tired of being paid wages that do not provide the income that they need and deserve. Rexplas is a profitable bottle packaging company. Its parent company Richards Packaging continues to pay monthly dividends to shareholders and its net income has increased by $28 million since 2018.
Most of the workers make barely above minimum wage and some have worked there for thirty five years. They had enough and decided to walk out. One striker said, “They thought we were weak. That we would accept anything they offered us, but we are showing them that we are strong!”. They are well aware of the militancy that is growing around the world. Most are originally from India and have many relatives actively involved in the farmers strike there. Their cars, that are blocking the entrance to the plant, have “Support Indian Farmers” as well as “USW on Strike” placards displayed, proudly making the links. They are determined to fight for a just settlement and strong solidarity will help them win.
Happy May Day!

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