Labor day has always held an important political pull in a country where unions wield a great deal of power — perhaps greater than in many other countries — throughout the better part of the 20th century. And this year is not the exception.
In a scenario where most of the largest unions are at odds with President Mauricio Macri, but at the same time the leaders of these unions are at odds with each other, the different events that will take place today help to illustrate the current situation of each faction, and posit how it will continue in the near future.
President Macri will partake in an event with certain unions that have sided with his administration. The CGT umbrella union — which broke with the government this year to adopt a more combative stance — will have its own rally. The CTA union, which never attempted to find middle ground with the administration nor did it hide its contempt for the Macri camp, will gather its supporters outside the National Congress, where the teachers unions have set the “mobile school” to illustrate their own demands to the government. Finally, the largest left-leaning organizations will hold their own rally in Plaza de Mayo this afternoon. Let’s tackle them one by one.
President Macri will head, for the first time since taking office, a celebration to commemorate Labor Day that has been organized by unions that side with him today. Joined by the head of the farmers and dockworkers union, Gerónimo “Momo” Venegas, Macri will give a speech in the Ferro Club Arena at 4 PM. “I think the President is coming to our event because we are working to get the country to move forwards,” said Venegas in an interview with Radio Mitre.
“In contrast with other events, this will be a constructive, hopeful one, one that shows we believe in the country and believe it has to move forwards, not remain stagnant,” he added.
It’s expected that Macri will announce a plan to encourage private sector companies to employ welfare plan beneficiaries by having the money previously unemployed receive as part of the salary they would have in the company, should they be employed. This way, state and private sector would divide the salary of the new employee.
On its end, the CGT board call to a rally in the Obras Sanitarias arena, in Núñez. This is the same place where the then different factions of the largest umbrella union in the country announced their reunification.
The call comes amid internal tensions that, nonetheless, were downplayed by the organization’s Secretary General, Pablo Moyano. “Beyond the differences, the CGT is united to face a government that keeps on undermining the workers’ interests,” he said. However, the rally’s caliber — it will take in an arena that can hold no more than 4,700 people — raises questions about the current state of the union’s leadership, considering how massive was the adherence to their previous calls — the protest on March 7 and April 6’s general strike.
The third Labor Day event has been called by both factions of the CTA union, which decided to gather at 2 PM outside the National Congress and hold a rally next to the so-called “Mobile school,” which has been set up by the teachers unions to draw attention to their particular claims.
CTA Secretary General Hugo Yaski said that the event will focus on criticizing the government’s policies: “we reject the undermining of labor rights, layoffs and suspensions, in an economic context that is more and more depressed, recessive and inflationary.”
One of the union’s factions, the Autonomous CTA, will also march to the monument to labor, located in Paseo Colón and Independencia at 1 PM, joined by social movements that have been extremely critical to the administration such as Barrios de Pie (neighborhoods on their feet), the Corriente Clasista y Combativa (classicist and combative current) and the Confederación de los Trabajadores de la Economía Popular (confederation of workers of the popular economy).
The largest left leaning organization, the FIT coalition, will hold its own event in Plaza de Mayo at 3 PM, where leaders of the three parties comprising the front — the Workers Party (PO), the Socialist Workers Party (PTS) and the Socialist Left (IS) — will deliver their respective speeches. “We expect an attendance that will double the modest event the CGT will hold in Obras Sanitarias,” said PTS leader Nicolás Del Caño. Leaders of the Buenos Aires Province teachers unions, currently in a power struggle with Governor María Eugenia Vidal over salary increases, will also address the attendants.