Venezuelans March for May Day as Maduro Announces Minimum Wage Gain

Over a hundred thousand Venezuelans flooded the streets of Caracas on Friday in commemoration of the significant gains for working people under the Bolivarian Revolution. The celebration also witnessed President Maduro approve a sub substantial increase in the National Minimum Wage. 

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Over a hundred thousand workers poured out on to the streets of Caracas on May 1st to celebrate advances for workers' rights (Lucas Koerner-Venezuelanalysis)
Over a hundred thousand workers poured out on to the streets of Caracas on May 1st to celebrate advances for workers' rights (Lucas Koerner-Venezuelanalysis)

Caracas, May 1, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Braving near ninety degree temperatures, over a hundred thousand Venezuelans flooded the streets of Caracas on Friday in commemoration of the significant gains for working people under the Bolivarian Revolution.

"We are here celebrating workers' day, the day of the committed, patriotic worker, the public servant who was exploited for so many years," says Indira Bolivar, organizing coordinator of the Revolutionary Work Party of Sucre state.

"But today we have awakened with the Revolution and we stand shoulder to shoulder behind the revolutionary process."

Beginning at the Colegio de Ingenieros metro station in the heart of Caracas, the march continued along the steaming asphalt of Avenue Urdaneta, which was transformed into a seemingly endless column of red.

Despite the appearance of a uniform mass, the marchers hailed from a range of diverse parties and social movements, for whom May Day bears a variety of meanings.

"Here we workers are here fighting not only for the right to work, for the liberation of the people as workers, but we are also here as workers who fight for access to land, the right to the city, and the right to dignified housing," explains Nelida Cordero, 65, national spokesperson for Resident Workers United for Venezuela, which organizes female domestic workers.

Norma Romero, spokesperson for the National Council for the Development of Afro Descendent Communities, affirmed the importance of worker struggles for Afro-Venezuelans.

"This workers' day, we stand by the victorious struggles which culminated in the Organic Law of Work and Workers [LOTTT], in which we made gains never before seen in Venezuela."

"For Afro-Venezuelans, [the LOTTT] has meant revolutionary inclusion: our jobs are insured in terms of wages, public service, medical care, all of these necessities are guaranteed by the Bolivarian Revolution," the Afro-Venezuelan leader told Venezuelanalysis.

Signed into law by President Hugo Chavez in 2012, the LOTTT is a revolutionary labor law that prohibits exploitative practices like subcontracting and recognizes an unprecedented array of worker rights denied in many other countries, such as extensive maternity leave, a 40-hour work week, and retirement pensions for all workers including homemakers.

With the three year grace period for employers to comply with the LOTTT's moratorium on subcontracting set to expire in a week, this year's May Day comes in the midst of heated labor struggles against outsourcing and mass firings.

"We're marching today because we are workers of Palmolive in Carabobo state, and we are protesting that we were fired unjustly for refusing to be subcontracted," explains Emilio Tobar, 41, a worker at U.S. transnational Colgate-Palmolive's Valencia-based plant.

On Tuesday, workers from General Motors Venezuela marched on the National Assembly demanding legal action after the transnational fired 466 workers in violation of the LOTTT.

The march concluded in Olary Square where tens of thousands gathered to hear President Nicolas Maduro, who returned from Havana this afternoon after participating in the socialist sister nation's May Day celebrations.

In honor of workers' day, the socialist leader announced an across-the-board increase of the minimum wage, which will rise by 20% as of May 1 and by 10% at the start of June.

"With oil at 40 dollars or with oil at zero, workers' rights will be guaranteed," pledged the president.

"March for Anti-Imperialist Victory"

Friday's march was also widely hailed as a celebration of the "anti-imperialist victory" in the global campaign initiated by President Maduro that saw 13 million, including 10 million Venezuelans, sign a petition demanding the repeal of the Obama administration's March 9 Executive Order branding Venezuela a "national security threat".          

For Juana Soledad Rodriguez, 43, a member of the Guerrilla Inces collective, Venezuelans took to the streets today, "so that President Obama understands that here there is a true people, and in no way are we going to allow U.S. colonial power to touch our shores."

During his speech, President Maduro praised Venezuelans for their efforts in the "tremendous battle against imperialist aggression," which saw the U.S. president backtrack on describing Venezuela as an "unusual and extraordinary threat".

“When a people stands united, conscious and mobilized, it is an indestructible people,” declared the president. 

Some present expressed criticisms of President Obama for his condemnation of the uprising in Baltimore following the death of Freddy Gray.

"Obama is killing one Afro-descendant after another. He doesn't share our struggle. He is not the icon of the Afro-descendant population worldwide, he is not our leader. He is a construct of the U.S. oligarchy, a puppet with a face of the people," Romero added to Venezuelanalysis.

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