Historic La Tondeña strike valuable, still relevant for workers – KMU

Today we mark the 40th anniversary of the historic La Tondeña strike. We pay tribute to the brave workers of La Tondeña and countless other workers who followed their path. The workers of La Tondeña launched a strike for the regularization of hundreds of casuals and extras in their factory, and did much, much more.

First, they defied the ban on strikes and all forms of protests imposed by the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972. They as such shattered the repressive silence that was prevailing at the time. Their strike was the signal fire that was followed by many other workers’ strikes and people’s protests. It paved the way for anti-dictatorship protests and the Edsa People Power uprising itself. It showcased workers’ key role in the struggle against dictatorships and for genuine democracy.

Second, they struggled against the anti-worker policy of contractualization, which further spread in the years and decades that followed. The Labor Code of 1974 legalized contractualization by declaring a ban on “Labor-Only Contracting,” only to empower the Labor Secretary to issue guidelines with regard to “Job Contracting.” The Filipino workers and people still face the task of fighting and ending contractualization.

Third, their strike showed the unity of various sectors of society in defense of workers’ trade-union and civil rights. Church people, students, urban poor and other sectors helped the workers in their strike. The strike showed the power of the unity of various sectors of society in fighting for workers’ rights and in struggling against the US-backed Marcos dictatorship.

Fourth, the strike was a defense of workers’ right to unionize and to strike. At present, workers face mass layoffs when capitalists find out that they are forming unions. Strikes are also being repressed through the Labor Secretary’s power to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes. The Hacienda Luisita massacre of November 16, 2004 highlighted the bloody consequences of this power of the Labor Secretary.

Fifth, the La Tondeña strike signalled the expansion of unions in the country. It showed that forming unions and waging strikes remained just and necessary for advancing workers’ rights. It served as an inspiration for workers to form unions and to struggle for their rights. It is crucial to the strengthening of the militant labor sector, and to the founding of Kilusang Mayo Uno in 1980.

We vow to be worthy inheritors of the La Tondeña strike. We vow to intensify struggles for higher wages, against contractualization, and for the right to form unions and hold strikes. We vow to intensify struggles against neoliberal policies currently devastating workers and the Filipino people. We vow to advance genuine, militant and anti-imperialist unionism. We vow to intensify the struggle against the dictatorship of the elite few.