Warrior Workers: Meet the groups that fight for labor rights

Published April 28, 2019, 7:22 AM

by Patrick Garcia

By Minka Klaudia Tiangco

With the ever changing landscape of work in the Philippines, there are always new battles to be fought to secure fair labor rights.

Fighting for this cause is a difficult and often thankless job, but there are some groups that are more than happy to take on the challenge.

One of them is the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), the country’s largest labor federation.

ALU-TUCP, which was founded on April 1954, aimed to bring togetherunion organizations from almost all industries, including banking and finance, agriculture, textile and garment, transport, hotels and restaurants, wood and paper, communication, service, electricity, electronics, chemicals, metal, food, construction, among others.

“The essence of what we are fighting for is that workers should be included in the progress of the company, and of our country’s economy. You can only do that by providing security of tenure, a decent salary, and most of all, social protection and benefits,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesman of ALU-TUCP.

Tanjusay said the group has about 1.2 million members and is composed of 27 labor federations.

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) is another group that is pushing for jobs for Filipino workers, fair pay, and labor rights.

Its launching activity on May 1, 1980 at the Araneta Center in Cubao was attended by about 50,000 people and was said to be the biggest assembly of workers during martial law.

Currently, the group has about 1.3 million members and has 11 federations and two mass organizations under its wing, according to KMU Executive Chairman Lito Ustarez.

“Tunay, palaban, at makabayang unyonismo – ‘yun pa rin ang prinsipyong kanyang dala-dala (Genuine, militant, and patriotic trade unionism – until now, that is the principle that the group holds on to),” he said.

Both groups shared that they have earned flak for the work that they do. Ustarez admitted that it was getting more difficult for them to bring attention to the causes they are fighting for. But even with all these challenges, they agree that only one thing pushes them to continue fighting: Their principles.

“They should be grateful to these labor organizations, because if not for them, workers would not have minimum wage, overtime pay, insurance. All the things that workers receive – their pay, benefits, among others – are all because of the huge and important help given by labor organizations,” Tanjusay said.

Both groups shared that they have been preparing activities for the upcoming Labor Day.

Tanjusay said they will be conducting more seminars to teach essential skills to unions and workers to better themselves.

“If you want a business or a company to thrive, you should equip the workers with necessary skills. Not only should they know and memorize their skill sets, they should work on improving them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ustarez said KMU will be having an open house exhibit on April 28 to 30 to showcase the effigy that they will be burning on Labor Day.

Tanjusay and Ustarez also urged everyone to join the Labor Day rally to celebrate the workers’ huge contribution to the country’s progress and to push for labor rights.

“We salute and give thanks to all Filipino workers who continue to work and give sacrifices every day,” Tanjusay said. “Continue being excellent, industrious, tenacious, and continue to support your families with dignity through good and honest work.”