Students, workers and unions joined together in a 110 car and 50 bicycle strong convoy protest today to demand that no worker be left behind in the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the transition to renewable energy.
Cars were covered in homemade posters and signs, and chalked with slogans that read “climate action now” and “no worker left behind.” Chants between cars such as “solidarity forever” and “worker’s rights” among a continuous stream of honking made the protest a loud one, as well as a long one.
The convoy met at the Domain and cars made their way along College Street to the Liberal Party headquarters, where protestors on bicycles met. The organisers promoted social distancing in the lead up to the rally by ensuring only members of the same household attended in one car.
“Shortly after starting it became clear that the entire city had been shut down and police admitted to many attendees that their actions had thrust the city into complete lockdown,” said Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN) Co-Convenor Seth Dias. “This shows that protest and resistance can be effective even in these trying times.”
“The May Day car convoy was organised by the newly formed May 1 Movement to continue resistance on a historical day for workers’ rights and social justice. This year, the demands were predominantly centred around calling on the government to include the 2.2 million workers left out of the COVID-19 welfare package, but also included demands around social justice and climate action.”
Key demands of the rally included the immediate expansion of JobKeeper to cover casual, migrant, international student and refugee workers; an amnesty on rent, mortgages and evictions; as well as the stopp of stand downs. On the climate front, demands written by the May Day organising committee focus on a “public works program to decarbonise the economy and guarantee a just transition for all fossil fuel workers, Indigenous communities and all those on the front line of the climate crisis.”
Independent community radio station 2SER hosted the live stream of the day, conducting interviews, playing music by Aboriginal artists, and reminiscing about previous May Day strikes.
Paul McAleer, Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, said that the “May 1 movement is not just about May 1, it’s about fighting for justice and fighting under the banner of worker’s rights and social justice. It’s absolutely fundamental that working class people resist the attacks and the austerity that we are facing in this country now, and with the unfolding of the economic crisis it is essential that workers continue to struggle for those things that we demand in our communities. The May 1 movement will stand behind all working class people who fight for justice, who fight for peace and who fight for socialism.”
McAleer also spoke on the May Day zoom forum that occurred in preparation for the convoy today, with former NSW Greens senator Lee Rhiannon and United Workers Union Warehouse Organiser Alex Suhle. The call was focused on how to make sure the car convoy ran smoothly, and how the movement will continue to fight in challenging circumstances.
Other actions have occurred around the country, with workers in places like Hutchinson Ports standing in solidarity with the car convoy while still working on the frontline.