May Day

May Day on May 1 is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the celebrations that the day includes – Wikipedia

It is not celebrated much in New Zealand, barely at all as far as I’m aware. Of course instead of Spring springing we have Autumn fairly well set in, most of the deciduous leaves have turned colour and fallen, and we don’t celebrate harvests either which are mostly finished already.

In the late 19th Century, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago. In those countries that celebrate International Workers’ Day, the day may also be referred to as “May Day” but it is a different celebration from the traditional May Day.

There may be a bit of minor recognition of International Workers’ Day in New Zealand but we have our own Labour Day in late October and even that isn’t recognised by most people by anything other than a long weekend.

Oddly Winston Peters spoke at an ‘International Workers’ Memorial Day Service’ on Wednesday:

Speech by New Zealand First Leader and Member of Parliament for Northland, Rt Hon Winston Peters

International Workers’ Memorial Day Service
Maritime Transport Union
Lower Hutt
11.45am, 28th April, 2015

Workers’ safety paramount

Thank you for inviting me to speak today on the occasion of International Workers’ Memorial Day.

Today is a day to remember all those workers who have paid with the lives, and those who have been hurt on the job.

The Unite Union is marking today with a picket protest

McDonald’s workers need support on May Day

Unite Union is calling on all New Zealanders to give support to McDonald’s workers this Friday, May 1st by tooting their support when they see pickets outside stores and not buying a burger on that day.

Help the McDonald’s workers stand up to bullying and intimidation on May Day – international workers day.

And news this morning says this won’t go ahead, there’s an agreement been reached with McDonalds.

McDonald’s ends zero hour contracts

McDonald’s and the Unite Union have come to an agreement over zero hours contracts – they’re gone.

Union director Mike Treen says it means that now all the major fast food chains have committed to ending zero hours.

That’s where staff must be on standby for work with no guarantee of being called in.

He describes the deal as historic.

Planned strikes are now off – in some cases gatherings are likely to turn into victory celebrations.

Meanwhile for most New Zealanders it will be a fairly normal Friday.

Destroy the business to save the workers

The Unite union have been taking protest action against McDonalds.  “Members were lobbying for better pay rates, having breaks on time, and guaranteed hours for workers”.

The ODT report on what has been happening in Dunedin.

The protests – dubbed ”McStrikes” – began peacefully outside the city’s central George St branch on Saturday.

On Sunday a post on Facebook urged people to attend a protest at the North Dunedin McDonalds and to “go give ’em hell!”

The end result:

Picketers ‘run over’ at McDonald’s

Two protesting picketers were run over while blocking a drive-through lane at McDonald’s in North Dunedin yesterday, an organiser says.

The protest featured placard-waving picketers from the Unite Union, who blocked the drive-through to the fast-food outlet from 4pm in front of a large crowd which had gathered to watch.

Unite Union South Island organiser Sharna Butcher (36) said members were lobbying for better pay rates, having breaks on time, and guaranteed hours for workers, when it turned ugly.

”Two of our members got run over, and we are laying a complaint against the driver … it was very full-on.”

One of the picketers, aged in his 20s, was taken to Dunedin Hospital with a suspected knee injury.

The protest had caused ”havoc” on the one-way system north, with vehicles banking up, causing ”them to slam their brakes on … so it was a wee bit of a shemozzle”, he said.

The protesters later agreed to move to a safer location before leaving just after 6pm, he said.

The “one-way system north” is State Highway 1 and is the main road out of Dunedin as well as to North East Valley.

The ODT photo shows about ten protesters with Unite placards (plus two children and a baby in a backpack) blocking access to the drive-through.

Tension presumably arose due to a clash between the right to protest, and the right to run a business and the rights of customers.

Union organiser Sharna Butcher seems to be pleased with the result, commenting on Facebook:

brilliant article with great photo yay

There is no obvious concern for the injured protester. Other comments indicate satisfaction with the coverage – “good article”.

And they are also happy with the impact on business:

Ms Butcher said the ”McStrikes” would have impacted on the fast-food giant.

”We are going to keep on doing it until they give our members what they want. I think out of all the ones we have held around New Zealand this one would have been the most beneficial in terms of financial loss.’

Beneficial to whom?

I’m not a fan of McDonalds and I support the right to protest but I question the right of a small number of people to deny businesses and customers their rights.

The Unite union and associated protesters from the Mana Party and International Socialist Organisation.

The ISO has been active in anti-war campaigns, environmental campaigns, and union work (with the Unite Union). In the 2011 election, the ISO supported the Mana Party.

Connections between Unite, Mana and ISO have been prominent in Dunedin protests

Do they really think that if they destroy business they’ll save workers?