May 1. May Day. International Workers’ Day.
A day to give thanks for those who have worked to extend and protect the rights and dignity of workers. A day to remember those who work, often in situations of degradation and exploitation. A day to commit ourselves to the efforts to ensure that all people have the opportunity for meaningful, safe work that will allow them to support themselves and their dependents.
A post by B’Tselem reminded me of workers I had not considered on this day:
For Palestinian workers, there is not much cause for celebration: the day is a painful reminder that another year has gone by and nothing has changed. Palestinians are still denied basic rights, including the right to earn a living without risking their lives.
B’tselem reports that Israel exploits natural resources of the West Bank (quarries, water, land) for its own needs and those of Israeli settlers even though this violates international law. This is a major factor preventing the development of a Palestinian economy on the West Bank. No Palestinian economy means limited work opportunities for Palestinians. This makes working within Israel the only option available to Palestinians.
Some Palestinians do so illegally. Such workers live in a state of anxiety, fearing detection, arrest, injury. B’Tselem notes that for such workers “labor rights such as a minimum wage, reasonable work hours, and a pension scheme seem like a distant dream.”
Other Palestinians seek to obtain work permits which Israel controls. Even with permits, Palestinian workers may enter Israel only through designated checkpoints. There, B’Tselem reports “harsh conditions of overcrowding, long lines, and cases of humiliation during inspection. On Sundays, the number of Palestinians crossing through both checkpoints peaks at 4,500. The workers and their belongings are scanned with a metal detector. Then, they move on to stations where personnel check their fingerprints and their papers, including their entry permits.”
As International Workers’ Day draws to a close, I give thanks for those workers who helped established rights workers enjoy today. I look for ways to extend and protect those rights. And I think of situations where workers are abused and exploited. I think of the West Bank how the workers there need the occupation to end so a viable economy can be built as steps toward the day when all can be employed in dignity.
Even as I type, I wonder what the workers of Gaza face. And the workers of other places. And I realize I need to learn more about the workers of the world, all the world including the United States.
The words of Joan Baez come back to me:
And the aching workers of the world again shall sing
These words in mighty choruses to all will bring
“We shall no longer be the poor
For no one owns us anymore”
And the workers of the world again shall sing
May it be so.
See you along the Trail.