Tuesday, 29 April 2014

May Day: Our Day


On Monday 28th April Ann McGuire became the first British teacher to be murdered in a classroom in front of pupils. As I assembled with other trade unionists at 12:15 in the shadow of Birmingham cathedral to mark international workers' memorial day at an event organised by Birmingham Trades Council an ambulance was arriving at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds. Soon after arriving at the local hospital Ann McGuire was pronounced dead. 

What a truly shocking, tragic way to bring home how brutally workers' lives can be taken from them for simply doing their job. Although we do not yet know enough what happened on Monday, the memory of Ann McGuire will be best served by supporting teaching trade unions in their fight to reduce the likelihood of anything like this happening again.

Monday's tragic event will make this year's trade union May Day rallies that more poignant, but no less important. We shall take to the streets to mark the history of the trade union struggle for workers' rights, and to remember again those who lost their lives at work.

World Workers, whatever may bind ye,
    This day let your work be undone:
Cast the clouds of the winter behind ye,
     And come forth and be glad in the sun.

Now again while the green earth rejoices
     In the bud and the blossom of May
Lift your hearts up again, and your voices,
     And keep merry the World's Labour Day.

Let the winds lift your banners from far lands
    With a message of strife and of hope:
Raise the Maypole aloft with its garlands
     That gathers your cause in its scope.

It is writ on each ribbon that flies
     That flutters from fair Freedom's heart:
If still far be the crown and the prize
     In its winning may each take a part.

Your cause is the hope of the world,
     In your strife is the life of the race,
The workers' flag Freedom unfurled
     Is the veil of the bright future's face.

Be ye many or few drawn together,
     Let your message be clear on this day;
Be ye birds of the spring, of one feather
     In this--that ye sing on May-Day.

Of the new life that still lieth hidden,
     Though its shadow is cast before;
The new birth of hope that unbidden
     Surely comes, as the sea to the shore.

Stand fast, then, Oh Workers, your ground,
     Together pull, strong and united:
Link your hands like a chain the world round,
     If you will that your hopes be requited.

When the World's Workers, sisters and brothers,
     Shall build, in the new coming years,
A lair house of life--not for others,
     For the earth and its fulness is theirs

Walter Crane, The Workers' Maypole (1894)

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