[OPINION] The labor vote is weak

Aika Rey
[OPINION] The labor vote is weak
Labor Win banks on the support of the workers, but they may not deliver

This is a #PHVote newsletter sent to subscribers on May 1, 2019.

Manila’s streets turned red once again on Wednesday, as protesters filled the streets to commemorate International Labor Day. But today’s Mayo Uno was not the usual condemnation of the Duterte administration on speakerphone – although this staple was still there, yes. What’s worth noting is that groups came together to support Labor Win, a coalition of labor leaders who are running for senator to push for pro-worker legislation.

But who are they? And why is it so important that leaders from labor groups bid for seats in the Senate? 

Labor Win was born out of frustration. The coalition is composed of longtime advocates who have been at the helm of the labor movement:

  • Kilusang Mayo Uno founder Ernesto Arellano
  • Former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares
  • Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino head Leody de Guzman
  • Federation of Free Workers president Sonny Matula
  • Labor lawyer Allan Montaño

Earlier into his presidency, Rodrigo Duterte promised to end contractualization by signing an executive order “drafted” by the labor groups. In May 2018, an executive order was signed, but a crucial provision on contracting employees was taken out – much to the labor groups’ dismay.

And so they banded together – this time, as senatorial aspirants who will be able to institute pro-worker reforms through legislation: end endo. Scrap regional boards. Decent wages for all.

They were merely echoing the cry of the masses, they said. And so they launched their campaign, hoping that the unions under their organizations would rally support behind them.

Labor Win’s credentials and platform are promising, yet it seems the odds are not in the slate’s favor. A crowd favorite, Colmenares ranked the highest among the 5 in the April 2019 Pulse Asia survey, but still outside the Magic 12. If the elections were held at that time, he wouldn’t have won as he ranked 19th to 23rd.

De Guzman, or “Ka Leody,” as he is fondly called, placed farther in the preelection survey. He has taken the 32nd to 52nd rank in the latest Pulse Asia survey.

The sad thing about this is, the situation is not surprising at all. In a piece I recently wrote, sociologist and University of the Philippines professor Herbert Docena said the labor vote is “weak, if not at all non-existent.” He attributed this to decades-long contractualization and anti-labor policies in the workplace that have weakened the movement.

“That’s why they rank low in surveys because the workers are disorganized,” he told me.

Despite the Labor Win candidates’ dismal performance in preelection surveys, Docena said the fact that they came together is already a win for the labor movement. After all, they had been working separately for a long time due to historical and political differences.

It was Ka Leody de Guzman who told me this is an opportunity to make the labor vote stronger – if not now, then in the future polls: “Kung hindi man ngayon ay magandang simula ito sa pagpapatuloy at pag-build ng labor vote, labor agenda, at later labor party. O baka maging labor government. Hindi naman masamang mangarap, ’di ba?”

(If we don’t make it this time, this is still a good initiative to sustain to build the labor vote, labor agenda, and later labor party. Who knows, we might in time have a labor government. We can dream, right?)  Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.