On Labor Day, rival groups ask voters to elect senators who 'truly' represent workers

MANILA, Philippines – Rival labor groups joined forces on Wednesday, May 1, to face their "common enemy": President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies.

Thousands of men and women clad in red shirts flooded Metro Manila streets once again on Labor Day, to push for workers' concerns and to support the senatorial candidates of the Labor Win coalition.

Their appeal to voters? Elect the candidates who "truly" represent workers. (READ: To Senate halls from the streets: Will the labor vote prevail in the midterm elections?)

"Workers will resist and oppose the worsening attacks against the poor and working people, and one of the ways is to vote against the candidates Duterte supports and endorses, because if they win, they will push for Duterte's anti-poor legislative agenda," Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairperson Elmer Labog said.

Among the groups present on Wednesday were left-leaning KMU and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), center-left Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, along with moderate Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

Though with varying political ideologies, they have a common plea.

"We need legislators who will continue to work on ensuring security of tenure not just for the private sector, but of equal importance, for the public sector workers as well," said Sentro secretary-general Josua Mata.

'True' representative of the workers

Labor Win candidates, who are veteran leaders of workers' organizations, sought support from those in their sector, saying that they "truly" represent workers.

"Walang makapagsalita na tunay para sa mga manggagawa maliban sa mga taong galing sa manggagawa. Sa darating na Mayo 13, ang manggagawa 'wag dapat matakot sa kapangyarihan. Ilagay natin sa kapangyarihan ang boses ng mga manggagawa," labor lawyer and Federation of Free Workers president Sonny Matula said in a speech.

(No one can truly speak for the workers but the people who come from the working class. On May 13, workers should not be afraid of those in power. We should elect those who will serve as the voice of the workers.)

LABOR VOTE? Labor Win candidates appeal for a 'labor vote' for the midterm elections during their press conference in Manila on Labor Day, May 1, 2019. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

LABOR VOTE? Labor Win candidates appeal for a 'labor vote' for the midterm elections during their press conference in Manila on Labor Day, May 1, 2019.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Aside from Matula, the Labor Win coalition is composed of former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares, BMP head Leody de Guzman, KMU founder Ernesto Arellano, and labor lawyer Allan Montaño.

The candidates saw the unity of the workers' groups on Wednesday as a "win" for the movement to usher in a labor vote.

"Makasaysayan ang ating pulong ngayon sapagkat nagkaroon ng pagkakaisa ang mga dating magkakalayong organisasyon, ngayon ay nagsama-sama. Iyan po ay isang signipikante ng Mayo Uno ngayon na dapat ikatuwa ng mga manggagawa," De Guzman said.

(Our gathering today is historic because there is unity among organizations with varying political beliefs. That is the significance of this year's Labor Day that should make workers happy as well.)

On Labor Day 2018, an executive order on labor was signed by Duterte, but a crucial provision on contracting employees was taken out – much to the labor groups' dismay.

The groups are also calling on the government to abolish regional wage boards and set a national minimum wage instead pegged at P750. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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