Many march for Workers' Day in Montreal
A few thousand workers demonstrated at the end of the afternoon on the occasion of International Workers’ Day. It’s in a context of inflation that the organizers of the march, the Coalition du premier mai, invited workers to march in Verdun, a historic district for the labor movement.
The coalition's slogan “we don't profit from inflation, we!” reflects the main problem undermining the living conditions of workers according to the Coalition, namely the increase in the cost of living. “Housing, food and transport” are the main focus of the group, which brings together various union and community organizations.
May Day is of historic significance for labor and labor movements. On that day, in 1886, a strike movement was born in Chicago bringing together hundreds of thousands of militants demanding an eight-hour working day. Many strikers and police died during the rallies and trials followed.
The demonstration was announced for 5:30 p.m., but demonstrators were already flocking to Remembrance Park around 4:30 p.m. They started around 6 p.m., following speeches by the two spokespersons, Catherine Beauvais-Saint-Pierre, of the Alliance of Teachers of Montreal, and Jérémie Dhavernas, of the Mouvement Action-Chômage.
Iranian activist Nima Machouf also delivered a speech to the crowd, reiterating the importance of the convergence of workers' struggles. Representative of Iranian workers, she raised the difficulties with which the workers of her country of origin are struggling, namely “poverty, unemployment, poor management of state finances and derisory wages”.
The demands of Iranian workers “are no different from those here,” she told the crowd. “Joining a united front is the only option for workers.”
An anti-capitalist contingent joined this march and organized a second demonstration.
A 6-year-old claim
The Minister of Labor of Quebec, Jean Boulet, announced today the increase of one dollar in the minimum wage. For employees receiving a tip, the minimum hourly rate will increase to $12.50. This decision allows, according to the Ministry of Labour, “the general minimum wage rate to reach the threshold of 50% of the average wage in Quebec”.
“We are not against virtue” , reacts Jérémie Dhavernas, who points out, however, that the minimum wage increases every May 1, and that the request for an increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour has been on the table since 2017.
“The community and union demands generally ask for $18” at the present time, he points out.
While the minister qualifies this increase as historic, the spokesperson for Québec Solidaire (QS), Manon Massé, retorts that the increase is insufficient. “What is historic is that he jumped a dollar. Because the other times, it just made 40 cents and 20 cents.”
Québec Solidaire was the only party with elected members of the National Assembly visible on the scene.
Minister Jean Boulet reiterated his “support for all Quebecers who have to deal with inflation”. He recalled the “amount of $500 paid in the spring of 2022” as well as the tax cuts and the “Tax credit granting a one-time amount to offset the rise in the cost of living”.
“What we see is that it’s the wealthiest who win in all of this,” criticizes spokesperson Catherine Beauvais-Saint-Pierre. She points out that taxes are used to fund public and community services.
Going to cut taxes like that means going to cut money for these services so we see that it is more a desire to please the population in the immediate future. In fact, we are doing a lot of people a disservice by making these cuts.
Catherine Beauvais-Saint-Pierre, spokesperson for the May Day Coalition.
An anti-capitalist contingent joined the demonstration. This parallel march to that of the Coalition was organized by the Convergence of Anti-Capitalist Struggles (CLAC) of Montreal.
While being in the demonstration, being solidarity and marching together, we want to emphasize that we have our own vision of how [the process] of workers' emancipation can take place.
Demonstrator joining the CLAC contingent and the second demonstration.
Without speaking for all those who belong to the CLAC, a demonstrator wishing to remain anonymous explained to Métro that the emancipation of workers can only be the work of the concerned, organizing together as an autonomous force.
Around 8:19 p.m., the Montreal Police Department announced that it had to disperse demonstrators in the area of Saint-Jacques and Atwater streets.
At the time these lines are written, Métro was still awaiting feedback from the SPVM and the CLAC on this subject.