Unions and others with gripes gear up for May Day

Tuesday is the Día Internacional de Trabajo or international worker’s day, sometimes called May Day.

In Costa Rica, the day is a legal holiday, and the big event is a march by workers and others up Avenida 2 to the legislative complex.

The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados is organizing its members. This year there is no central theme to protest. The massive tax proposal by President Laura Chinchilla is in the trash bin, and several other complaints are unlikely to produce a uniform response. The best that the union organizers could come up with is an abstract theme to protest work rights.

The march is open to all comers, and the motorcyclists certainly will be there expressing their unhappiness with obligatory insurance.

Members of the local version of Occupy certainly will be in the line of march along with all sorts of other protesters, some of whom could easily be classified as outside the mainstream.

Gone are the days when opposition to the free trade treaty with the United States brought together all forms of protesters. Gone are the oversized masks of Óscar Arias Sánchez and other political figures who
supported the treaty. Still the morning march is a venue for plenty of creativity and political criticism and certainly ranks high as a tourist attraction.

An irony is that the impetus for May Day originated with the 1886 Chicago Haymarket Riots in which workers and police died, yet U.S. Labor Day is celebrated in September. Still the Occupy Wall Street group and Anonymous plan to stage demonstrations there this year. Shortly after the Haymarket confrontation, Socialists adopted the day as their own. The former Soviet Union displayed its military might on that day.

In Costa Rica most public employees will be off, and foreign embassies will be closed. This is the 99th year of the day’s observance. Naturally traffic will be snarled downtown, although the usual license plate restrictions will not be enforced, according to the Policía de Tránsito.

The day also has political significance. It is the time the Asamblea Legislativa reorganizes and picks leaders for the coming year. The president also delivers a state of the country address in the evening to the assembled bureaucracy and diplomats. The contest for assembly leadership is expending a lot of ink, paper and electrons in the Costa Rican news reports. The lawmakers appear to be split 50-50 with the swing votes held by two independent legislators from two political parties linked to religious causes.

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