May Day 2020: A Day of Solidarity and Support

Normally, I see May Day as the international workers holiday. It would, in my view, be an international paid holiday where nobody labors and celebrates the value of people. A number of worker co-ops close to celebrate (Rainbow Grocery Co-op and Olympia Food Co-op to name two of them). This year, however, I think that we need a different way to celebrate especially since many workers have been idled and many worker co-ops are struggling to survive.

Celebrate May Day by supporting worker co-ops or co-ops that include workers as owners. Celebrate businesses in your community whose workers are unionized and let those union members know that you have their back.

For the co-ops, do what you can. For instance in Olympia, people can order coffee from Burial Grounds, order a meal from New Moon Café, order a book from or join Orca Books Co-op, support home care workers like Capital Homecare and keep entertainment venues like Le Voyeur on life support. In Astoria, OR, Blue Scorcher Bakery offers incredible bread, chocolate, and more! You can probably google “co-op” to find co-ops in your community but you can also access the US Federation of Worker Co-op’s Directory. The Federation also has a page for co-ops seeking support.

What else can we do? Write a letter to the editor of your paper supporting workers, write/call your elected representatives AND their opponents in the fall election: those on the front lines helping us shelter from the virus and those hoping that they can manage the economic crisis that will follow the virus. Let’s make worker co-ops and worker dignity a major campaign issue this fall.

I say this in all seriousness, but one of the most formative books in my childhood is Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day“. At one point, he proclaims “Everyone is a Worker”

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Of course, “almost” everyone is a worker. People who don’t produce, manufacture, provide a service aren’t workers. We need to create an economy that values the workers and the humanity that they represent. People who spend their day to make something of value or provide a service to others are the heros*. Our economy should be built around the value of their humanity.

Can May Day 2020 be the beginning of a new labor movement? A labor movement not divided by credentialism, artificial class divisions* and other systemic systems designed to divide us? I hope so. I think that this is a generational moment. We have a pandemic that cares little for people’s identity and we have had to rediscover the concept of mutual aid and support to manage through it. Perhaps we can keep this energy moving, growing, and creating a new world.

Let’s make this May Day the beginning of a new world.

*people who provide capital stolen over generations from laborers and then extorting contemporary workers (including small business owners) to get access to it are not providing a service. Theft is not in my definition of work.

**imho a “small business” means that the owner works on the line with the people that they hire in addition to managing the business. They may take a draw or a wage, but they are actually working, not idling away on a golf course or beach.

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-op in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University. He has served on the board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and the Board of Governors for the late, great Democracy at Work Network. He currently sits on the Co-op Circle for Sociocracy for All. He has taught on worker co-operatives and democratic management in the summer at The Evergreen State College and Presidio Graduate School.
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