Labor Day 2024: Workers and activists demand more workers' rights

ISTANBUL (AP) — Workers, activists and others from around the world took to the streets Wednesday to celebrate Labor Day with protests over price-rising pressures and calls for more workers' rights. forefront- Palestinian Emotions were on display too.

Police in Istanbul used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse thousands of people who tried to break through a barrier and reach the main Taksim Square in defiance of a ban on celebrating Labor Day there. At least 210 people were detained, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on the social media platform X.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government long ago declared Taksim a no-go area for demonstrations for security reasons, but the square holds symbolic value for trade unions. In 1977, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a Labor Day celebration in Taksim, causing a stampede and killing 34 people.

On Wednesday, a small group of trade union representatives was allowed into the square to lay a wreath at a memorial to the victims.

Labor Day, which falls on May 1, is celebrated to celebrate workers' rights. It is also an opportunity to express economic grievances or political demands. One sign in Germany read: “Tax the rich.” “Don't touch the eight-hour workday!” Further reading in Sri Lanka.

In Athens, several thousand demonstrators joined marches as labor strikes disrupted public transport and national railway services across Greece. The country's largest union is demanding a return to collective bargaining after the abolition of workers' rights during the 2010-2018 financial crisis in Greece.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators joined the marches, waving a giant Palestinian flag as they marched in front of the Greek Parliament. Others held pro-Palestinian banners Student protests in the United States.

Union members scuffle with Turkish police officers as they march during Labor Day celebrations in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

A union member scuffles with plainclothes police as he walks with others during Labor Day celebrations in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

A union member scuffles with plainclothes police as he walks with others during Labor Day celebrations in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Riot police officers stand guard and block the road to protesters as union members march during Labor Day celebrations in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Police in Istanbul detained dozens of people who tried to reach the city's main square, Taksim, in defiance of a government ban on... Celebrate Labor Day on May 1st at the historic site.  (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Riot police officers stand guard and block the road to protesters as union members march during Labor Day celebrations in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

“We want to express our solidarity with students in the United States, who face significant repression of their rights and just demands,” Nikos Mavrokevalos said at the rally. He added: “We want to send a message that workers say no to exploitation, no to poverty, and no to high prices.”

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In Paris, thousands of demonstrators demonstrated in the French capital, demanding improved wages and working conditions. Pro-Palestinian groups and anti-Olympic activists joined the demonstration, chanting slogans in support of the people in Gaza.

A group of protesters set fire to makeshift Olympic rings to show dissatisfaction with the Olympic Games Summer Games starting In less than three months. French unions have warned of a strike during the Games if the government does not provide adequate compensation to people forced to work during the summer vacation.

Sophie Binet, secretary general of the CGT, one of France's largest unions, said government officials failed to meet with union leaders before the Olympics. “How do you expect things to go well if the authorities do not respond to our simplest demands?” She said.

In South Africa, pro-Palestinian demonstrators joined Labor Day activities. In Kenya, President William Ruto called for an increase in the country's minimum wage. In Iraq, demonstrators demanded better wages, the reopening of closed factories and an end to the privatization of some companies.

In Lebanon, pro-Palestinian demonstrators mingled with workers to demand an end to the miserable economic crisis. “Politicians do not feel the pain of the worker or the economic conditions,” said Abed Al-Tabbaa, one of the demonstrators.

In Indonesia, workers demanded protection for migrant workers abroad and an increase in the minimum wage. The demonstrators gathered amid a heavy police presence, chanting slogans against the new job creation law and the easing of outsourcing rules, during a march to Jakarta's main sports stadium.

In the South Korean capital, thousands of demonstrators chanted pro-labor slogans in a march that organizers said was aimed at intensifying criticism of what they described as the anti-labor policies pursued by the conservative government of President Yeon Suk-yul.

Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions gather for a Labor Day rally in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Workers, activists and others in Asian capitals took to the streets Wednesday to mark Labor Day with protests against rising prices, government labor policies and calls for more workers' rights.  (AP Photo/Ahn Young Joon)

Members of the Korean Federation of Trade Unions gather for a rally on Labor Day in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Members of the Korean Federation of Trade Unions gather for a rally on Labor Day in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Members of the Korean Federation of Trade Unions gather for a rally on Labor Day in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

“In the past two years under the government of Yoon Suk-yeol, the lives of our workers have sunk into despair,” Yang Kyung-soo, leader of the Korean Federation of Trade Unions, said in a speech.

Union members criticized Yoon's veto in December of a bill aimed at limiting companies' rights to seek compensation for damages caused by union strikes. The government also pledged to deal strictly with illegal strikes.

In Japan, more than 10,000 people gathered in Tokyo to demand an increase in salaries to compensate for the rise in prices. Masako Obata, leader of the left-leaning National Confederation of Trade Unions, said lower wages had widened income disparities.

In the Philippines, hundreds of workers and left-wing activists marched to demand higher wages and job security amid rising food and oil prices. Riot police prevented them from approaching the presidential palace.

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Kim reported from Seoul. Associated Press journalists Oleg Cetinek in Paris, Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Ninick Karmini in Jakarta, Susan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, and VJ Basilio Sebe in Manila contributed to this report.

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