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A New Bill of Workers’ Rights for May Day

Toby Martin
May 1, 2020

May Day. Every year it stirs up questions ranging from whether it’s necessary to celebrate workers’ rights any longer, to when and why it was founded, and by whom.

This year, I’d like to challenge us to take a new approach to a Workers’ Bill of Rights. The notion of fighting and protesting for an 8-hour workday and safe working conditions may seem quaint to most workers today or has lost its favor to shifts in protest to more political concerns in many cases. (I won’t touch that here)

For the most part, in the developed and industrialized world, we no longer have the tragedies that necessitated the founding of May Day, with mob riots and obscene levels of violence.

With new realities at the forefront, it provides an opportunity to mark this May 1st with fresh ideas for a Workers’ Bill of Rights:

  • People first – Any work environment must put the people there first, PERIOD. Profit and loss, inventory controls, and any other measures are meaningless unless it’s a safe (physically and psychologically) place to conduct whatever work.
  • The right to be appreciated – It should be commonplace that with performance comes rewards in both monetary and non-monetary recognition. A simple thank you or other reinforcement isn’t really a workplace-only thing, it should be societal. Let’s all try that on for size… especially for co-workers.
  • The right to improve yourself continually – OUT are days when workers were just drones to be used and discarded. The world has recognized the importance of building team knowledge and strengths. IN are the days of investing and training people so they feel more fulfilled by learning, which elevates the team performance considerably.
  • Finally, the right to be the best you possible and rise to your maximum – One generational shift that is often discussed in the non-linear progression of the coming generation(s) of workers – no longer are you expected to stay in the first job you take and work your way up at one company. Now it’s encouraged and widely available to ‘wander’ in your career in order to grow and diversify experience.
In many ways, the above changes have been brought about by the workers themselves, so I’m all for May Day. Let’s just modernize our approach. Rather than literally fighting for new freedoms, let’s all fight for progress and reflection in our work values. Let’s stay engaged and come up with more ideas on the new Workers’ Bill of Rights!