Celebrating May Day: Images Of Workers Around The World

May Day, Bolivia
Today is May Day, when the world celebrates the struggles and sacrifices of the common worker. Like this cheese seller in Tupiza, Bolivia, photographed by Gadling’s resident cheese expert Laurel Miller. After some hard hours making her product, this woman comes to the market hoping to sell it all before the day is through. She uses a plastic bag on a stick to keep the flies away.

A range of unions and workers’ parties declared May Day a workers’ holiday in 1898. The date commemorated a three-day general strike in the U.S. that started on May 1, 1886, during which workers demanded an eight-hour day. Police fired into a protest by employees at the McCormick-International Harvester Company and killed three. On May 4, workers staged a protest against the killings at Haymarket Square, Chicago. A bomb went off and the police charged into the demonstrators. At least a dozen people died that day, including seven officers. Eight activists were sentenced to hang for the bombing, although there was widespread criticism about the lack of evidence.

American workers eventually got an eight-hour day, but it took several more major demonstrations and lots more people getting hurt. Many countries still don’t offer the benefits we now take for granted. Traveling around the world we come across people in lots of different lines of work. Some jobs are good, some are bad, and some are downright grueling. I’ll never forget a man I saw on a construction site in Damascus, Syria, back in 1994.

A crew was digging a deep trench into the sidewalk near our hotel, and every day my travel companions and I would pass by. Most of the men were down in the trench digging, but one guy had the job of sitting on an upturned bucket at street level manning a pump to take away water from the trench. He pulled on a rope attached to a pulley overhead, which yanked a crude pump at the bottom of the excavation. He’d set up a rhythm and sat there pulling all day. We saw him, every morning, noon, and evening, for days on end. We dubbed him, “The Man With the Most Boring Job in the World.”

I regret I never talked to him. While I’ve had my share of soul-destroying jobs, I bet he could have taught me a thing or two about what it means to work for a living. So Happy May Day, Man With the Most Boring Job in the World, and Happy May Day to all the other workers photographed in this gallery of shots by Gadling bloggers and members of the Gadling Flickr pool!

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Brittany Ferries Strike Affects Travel, Business In Three Countries

Brittany Ferries, Cap Finistère
A strike by the employees of Brittany Ferries is disrupting the movement of travelers and goods between England, France and Spain.

The BBC reports the French union that staffs the ferry service is striking in protest of cuts by the company, which is deeply in the red. Brittany Ferries operates several lines from England to various ports in northern France and Spain. In addition to travelers using the service to bring their cars across the water, about 3,000 commercial trucks use the service.

In a press release, the company stated that because of repeated wildcat strikes, they’ve made the decision to suspend almost all service: “The only route which will be unaffected is the Poole-Cherbourg passenger service which is operated on our behalf by Condor Ferries … Because of this indefinite stoppage we are recommending customers to travel to Dover where we currently have special arrangements in place with P&O Ferries and MyFerryLink to accept Brittany Ferries tickets [see website for details]. Unused Brittany Ferries crossings will be refunded.”

One of Brittany Ferries’ destinations is Santander in Spain, where I live part time. Port fees, customers using local businesses, and the shipment of goods all bring an injection of much-needed money into an economy in recession. Local paper El Diario Montañes reports that the ship Cap Finistère has been stuck here since September 20, with 500 passengers and 100 vehicles. Most have made their way to other ferries in France.

[Photo of the Cap Finistère courtesy George Hutchinson]

UK strike slows down ports and airports

UK, UK Border AgencyUK airports and ports are experiencing delays as many customs and immigration officials are on a one-day strike.

The UK Border Agency is one of several UK public sector unions on strike over plans to change pensions, a move they say will have employees working longer, paying more into the system, and getting less out of it when they retire.

Some Border Agency workers started early, at 6pm yesterday, and most airports and ports are reporting some delays. These delays aren’t as bad as were expected, however, because qualified managers have stepped in to fulfill the absent workers’ duties and not all workers are on strike. Still, if you’re flying into the UK today, don’t expect to be relaxing in your hotel an hour after you land.

Passengers leaving the UK will not be affected because they don’t go through customs. Airport security workers are not on strike.

Other government facilities such as schools, courts, and offices are also closed or giving limited service.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Strike to cause delays at UK ports and airports tomorrow

UKA massive public sector strike planned for tomorrow in the UK will slow down travel in ports and airports.

An estimated 750,000 public sector workers will go on a one-day strike in protest over proposed changes to pensions, and this will include thousands of customs and immigration officials. UK ports and airports will remain open but passengers should expect delays.

Most schools and many other government buildings will be closed tomorrow. Strike organizers complain that the new public sector pension scheme will make employees work longer, put more money into the system, but get less when they retire.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Travelers stranded in Punta Arenas, Chile due to strikes, road blocks

Strikes in Punta Arenas, Chile stranded travelers for daysThousands of travelers were left stranded in Punta Arenas, Chile over the past few days due to protests, general strikes, and road blocks throughout the region. Unrest exploded in the area late last week when the Chilean government announced plans to raise the price of fuel by 17%, which caused riots in the street and closed off traffic both in and out of the city. Strikes and protests were also underway in the nearby town of Puerto Natales. Both cities are located in the far south of the Patagonia region of the country.

Punta Arenas is a port city with a population of about 155,000 and is a major launching point for tourists cruising the Southern Ocean off the coast of Antarctica each year. During the high season, which is currently in full swing, thousands of foreign visitors pass through the city as they come and go from their various cruise ships. Those arriving back to port over the weekend were greeted with violence in the streets, protestors carrying signs, and a virtual stand still to all travel.

Reports from the city indicate that many shops and cafes have been closed for the past few days, and food is in short supply. The airport has been closed as well and road blocks have made it difficult for travelers to leave by ground vehicle to other destinations. Some made plans to go by bus to Argentina to seek passage back to their home countries.

There has been some encouraging news however, as protesters have agreed to allow the passage of some vehicles on the roads and there are indications that the airport would begin to open for limited traffic as well. As a result, travelers were expected to slowly start to filter out yesterday and today, finally getting the opportunity to begin their journey home.

This story is another good reminder that anything can, and will, happen when we travel in foreign countries. Some of the visitors to Punta Arenas have been stuck there for as much as four or five days and while most have places to stay, food has certainly been in short supply. Hopefully normal air travel will resume today and they can finally begin to head home, but it sounds like it has been quite an ordeal for foreigners, who have been caught in the crossfire between the government and the local population in Chile.

[Photo credit: South Atlantic News Agency]