Challenges of Venezuelan workers I Opinion I Edwin Sambrano Vidal

Challenges of Venezuelan workers I Opinion I Edwin Sambrano Vidal

2023-05-02 23:46:46

One of the highest priority struggles today is the validity of collective agreements as an expression of the right to collective bargaining.

Edwin Sambrano Vidal

May Day, an emblematic date that was established as “International Workers’ Solidarity Day” and commemorates, not a singular event, but a process of sustained and organized struggle for the 8-hour day, the freedom of independent organization, of collective bargaining and other essential claims and rights. They were the days of the end of April and beginning of May of 1886, the mobilizations happened, one after another, as in all the months of that year. Already on March 1, a gigantic strike of more than 320,000 workers had shaken American society. The days of March and April were preparations to seek an outcome and achieve the goal. In this context, a general strike was called to start on May 1. under the order that “From that day on, no worker should work more than 8 hours per day. 8 hours of rest and 8 hours of recreation. The established and normally executed working day was between 10 and 18 hours a day, although the working day had already been reduced to between 8 and 10 hours in several large companies, consortiums and states. But the vast majority worked, from 2 to 4 p.m. The strike of May 1 incorporated more than 190,000 workers. The mere threat of a strike had made it possible for 150,000 workers to benefit from employer measures to reduce working hours. The mobilizations continued with rallies and concentrations on day 2.

On the 3rd, between 7 and 8 thousand workers gathered at the gates of the McCormick Harvester Works company, a large producer of agricultural machinery, notable for the arbitrariness it committed against its workers, salary reductions, suspensions without pay, dismissals of members of unions, attacks with scabs, private guards and police who obeyed their orders and lockout (closure) with dismissal of thousands of workers who were replaced by scabs who confront the workers gathered under the protection of the police who open fire killing 6 workers and injuring more than 50, all workers. A protest rally is immediately called for May 4 in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, capital of the industrial state of Illinois., the second city in economic importance and population in the US. 15,000 people attend peacefully under the call for calm without causing clashes with the police, a scattered rain separates part of the attendees and a large group of agents appears and gathers in front of the grandstand, at that moment a bomb explodes between the two groups of policemen and one falls dead, the policemen immediately open fire on the crowd, shooting at random, causing several deaths and numerous injuries. This is what is known as the “Chicago massacre”.. For these events, the eight most prominent leaders are arrested and tried, of whom seven are sentenced to be hanged and four are hanged, while one committed suicide, the remaining three received long prison terms and six years later were pardoned. They are called the “Chicago Martyrs.” The pardon document reads:

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They were all innocent and the punishment they received had been the result of psychosis and a flagrant violation of legal norms”.

The conquest of the objectives is always the result of the consistent and organized struggle.

The days of May 1886 did not immediately achieve the objectives of the workers, but they gave a definitive impulse so that both the eight-hour day and freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and other demands have been won in the course of that same year. They are a milestone in the effort, will and talent of the employees to achieve them, through systematic struggle, organizing and summoning the enthusiasm and union of the workers.

The wheel of history does not stop and collective struggles based on the natural trends of social development always lead to the changes that are proposed, even though there may be variations in forms and time. Years later, these heroic days were valued and May Day was established as “International Workers’ Solidarity Day” on a global scale.

In the Venezuela of 2023, 137 years later, is there something to celebrate on this day?

From the perspective of action and presence, for the benefit of the workers by the de facto regime that has enthroned itself in the public powers of the country and that is sustained by the threat of the use of police and military force, we have nothing to do. celebrate and yes, to denounce, reject and fight.

From the perspective of the workers, there is much to celebrate, although the struggle has not yet achieved the objectives set.

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  • That we maintain willingness and courage to fight.
  • That this year the awakening of public sector workers has continued, accompanying and encouraging workers who have been fighting for years in defense of labor rights won for the benefit of all citizens today and tomorrow.
  • That almost 3,000 mobilizations have been carried out in the first 3 months of 2023, an amount that is close to tripling the average for the entire year 2022.
  • That public administration workers have joined, many of them supporters of Chavismo, others already identify themselves as ex-Chavistas or dissidents, who remained subject to the dictatorial command of the de facto regime, deployed a firm and sincere fight for their rights and for the proper functioning of the administration at the service of the citizens.
  • That the confrontation against the instructive ONAPRE is linked to the fight against the seizure of wages by the infamous Memorandum 2792 of the Minister of Labor, Eduardo Piñate, today governor of Apure State,


The highest priority struggles today are:

1.- Due to the composition and amount of the salary, which must be raised at least to cover the food basket.

2.- For the respect of salary scales.

3.- For the validity of collective agreements as an expression of the right to collective bargaining and as regulations that summarize better working conditions, the result of past achievements and present aspirations.

Such struggles are joined by the following:

4.- The just and angry claim for freedom of association.

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5.- Respect for the right to public assembly and demonstration.

6.- Respect for stability in the workplace.

7.- Respect for the dignity of workers.

8.- Respect for freedom of expression and thought.

9.- The reinstatement of thousands of unincorporated, fired and forcibly retired workers.

10.- For the payment of accumulated labor debts.

11.- For the improvement, investment and maintenance of public sector work sites, adapting them to provide a true quality service in satisfaction of the needs and requirements of citizens, in study centers, in administrative entities, autonomous institutes, regional corporations, state companies.

All this is worth celebrating, because it represents a different picture of the situation than we had on this same date in the year 2022, in terms of the conscience and general will of the employees. This is a huge advance.

Accompanying the above, we observe the rise of other organized labor movements, the appearance of numerous new leaders; their training and training in the social and labor struggle, the expansion of participation and organized groups throughout the country, as well as the notable progress in the unification of a program of struggles, which implies clarity of objectives, and a more coordinated between the different labor sectors.


There are advances in our fight that will allow us to better face our social responsibility because along with the advances that we can celebrate, there are also challenges, some old and others typical of the new social framework and existing organization, especially since the de facto regime continues his aggression against the workers.

We will refer to the latter in another article.


The author is a labor lawyer, former deputy to the National Assembly, member of the Regional Secretariat of the Frente Amplio Venezuela Libre of the Bolívar State, director of several civil and labor organizations., adviser to the Unidad Workers’ Movement in La Coincidencia, coordinator of the citizen organization Unidad y Cambio, director of the Casa del Trabajador de Guayana and director of the Lazos Guayana coalition.

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