Virus worries haunt workers demanding rights on May Day

  • Protesters from the communist party-affiliated PAME union wearing masks to protect against coronavirus, march during a May Day rally outside the Greek Parliament, in Athens, on Friday, May 1, 2020. Hundreds of protesters gathered in central Athens and the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark May Day, despite appeals from the government for May Day marches and commemorations to be postponed until next Saturday, when some lockdown measures will have been lifted. (AP Photo/Petros... Petros Giannakouris

  • A man is arrested by police officers during a May Day demonstration, in Paris, during nationwide confinement measures to counter the Covid-19, Friday, May 1, 2020. France is bracing for potential wildcat demonstrations despite a ban on any gatherings. Unions are calling for people to sing on balconies or out their windows at midday in a collective shout of protest for more worker protections. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus) Thibault Camus

  • Customers wait in line at the Long's Bakery Shop in Indianapolis, Friday, May 1, 2020 after the bakery reopened after closing it doors due to COVID-19. The bakery, considered an essential business, reopened as Indianapolis extended the city's stay-at-home order to May 15. Customers waited in the hour-long line to purchase the shop's signature yeast glazed donuts. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) Michael Conroy

  • A demonstrator, wearing a face mask and shield for protection against coronavirus, stands during May Day protests in Istanbul, Friday, May 1, 2020. Police in Istanbul detained several demonstrators who tried to march toward Istanbul’s symbolic Taksim Square in defiance of the lockdown imposed by the government due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) Emrah Gurel

  • A riot police points the pepper spray to journalists as pro-democracy activists gather outside a shopping mall during the Labor Day in Hong Kong, Friday, May 1, 2020 amid an outbreak of the new coronavirus. May Day usually brings rallies and celebrations rallies marking international Labor Day. This year it's a bitter reminder of how much has been lost for the millions left idle or thrown out of work thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) Kin Cheung

  • Visitors wearing face masks to protect against the new coronavirus stand widely spaced in line as they wait to enter the Forbidden City in Beijing, Friday, May 1, 2020. The Forbidden City reopened beginning on Friday, China's May Day holiday, to limited visitors after being closed to the public for more than three months during the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) Mark Schiefelbein

  • Turkish police officers arrest a demonstrator wearing a face mask for protection against the coronavirus, during May Day protests near Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Friday, May 1, 2020. Police in Istanbul detained at least 15 people including trade union leaders who tried to stage a May Day march in defiance of a coronavirus lockdown and a ban on demonstrations at the historic square. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) Emrah Gurel

  • This photo provided by the communist party-affiliated PAME union shows protesters practice social distancing during a May Day rally outside the Greek Parliament, in Athens, Friday, May 1, 2020. Hundreds of protesters gathered in central Athens and the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark May Day, despite appeals from the government for May Day marches and commemorations to be postponed until next Saturday, when some lockdown measures will have been lifted. (PAME via AP)

  • A protester holds the traditional Lily of the Valley flower during a banned May Day gathering Friday, May 1, 2020 in Marseille, southern France. France is bracing for potential wildcat demonstrations despite a ban on any gatherings following the nationwide confinement measures to counter the COVID-19. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole) Daniel Cole

  • People offer Friday prayers maintain social distance at a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan, May 1, 2020. The government imposed a nationwide lockdown to try to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad) Muhammad Sajjad

  • Health workers, unions & civil society hold a picket outside Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, Friday, May 1, 2020, demanding personal protective equipment (PPE) for all front line health workers. South Africa began easing one of the world's strictest lockdowns on Friday, with runners and dog-walkers returning eagerly to the streets but not all wearing the face masks that are now mandatory in the country with Africa's most coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe) Themba Hadebe

  • Turkish police officers, wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, stand behind carnations from a wreath damaged during a scuffle with demonstrators during May Day protests in Istanbul, Friday, May 1, 2020. Police in Istanbul detained at least 15 people including trade union leaders who tried to stage a May Day march in defiance of a coronavirus lockdown and a ban on demonstrations at the historic Taksim Square. In 1977, 34 people were killed there during a May Day event when... Emrah Gurel

  • Demonstrators from the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey, or DISK, wearing face masks and shields for protection against the coronavirus, gather during May Day protests in Istanbul, Friday, May 1, 2020. Police in Istanbul detained at least 15 people including trade union leaders who tried to stage a May Day march in defiance of a coronavirus lockdown and a ban on demonstrations at the historic Taksim Square. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) Emrah Gurel

  • A Muslim woman wears gloves prays in east Jerusalem's Mount of Olives, overlooking the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque compound, which remains shut to prevent the spread of coronavirus during the holy month of Ramadan, Friday, May 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) Ariel Schalit

  • People who arrived from neighboring Madhya Pradesh state stand in a queue to register their names before boarding a bus to be transported back to their native homes in Uttar Pradesh state in Prayagraj, India , Friday, May 1, 2020. The shelter-in-place orders imposed in India on March 24 halted all but essential services, sparking an exodus of migrant workers and people who survive on daily wages out of India's cities and toward villages in rural areas. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is... Rajesh Kumar Singh

  • Surfers wait for waves as the sun goes down the day before the beach is scheduled to close during the coronavirus outbreak, Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Newport Beach, Calif. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday temporarily closed Orange County's coastline after large crowds were seen there. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Mark J. Terrill

Published: 5/1/2020 5:25:17 PM

ATHENS, Greece — Millions of workers worldwide marked international labor day on Friday trapped between hunger and fear — struggling without jobs or worried they don’t have enough protections against the coronavirus as more countries and states reopen for business.

Beijing’s Forbidden City, the imperial palace turned museum that is one of China’s biggest tourist attractions, started welcoming visitors again, and Bangladesh began reopening factories, as world leaders try to salvage their battered economies without causing a resurgence of the virus that has killed over 230,000 worldwide.

With traditional May Day labor marches curtailed by strict limits on public gatherings, Turkish protesters attempted to stage an unauthorized demonstration. California activists planned strikes, and Parisians sang from balconies to plead their causes: workplace masks, health insurance and more government aid for the jobless.

It was a melancholy International Workers’ Day for garment workers across Southeast Asia such as Wiryono, a father of two in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, who was laid off last month as retailers slashed orders. His side gig delivering coffee dried up, too, amid a virus lockdown. So he set up a clothing repair business to make ends meet.

“I don’t earn as much as I got from the clothing factory. But I have to feed my wife and kids every day,” said Wiryono, who goes by only one name.

A government-ordered lockdown couldn’t extinguish the May Day protest spirit in Greece, where demonstrators lined up 2 meters (6 feet) apart in careful rows in Athens’ Syntagma Square. Organizers in masks and gloves used tape measures and large colored squares to set out exact positions for the protesters.

Greeks who work by making deliveries staged a motorized protest, driving through Athens on their motorbikes, and police were out in force to ensure residents didn’t head from cities to the countryside, another May Day tradition.

“We are praying for all workers, so that no one will lack work and all will be fairly paid and can enjoy the dignity of work and the beauty of rest,” Pope Francis said at a private morning Mass.

In Spain, a huge field hospital that symbolized the country’s desperate battle against the virus held a ceremonial closing. Dozens of health workers shouted “Public Health!” and “We Want Tests!”

Nearly 40,000 Spanish health workers have contracted the virus, in part because of a scarcity of tests and protective clothing that forced many doctors and nurses to make suits out of garbage bags and other everyday products.

May Day labor protests started in the 19th century in the United States, where this week the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits surpassed a staggering 30 million — and joblessness in April could hit numbers not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Essential workers were expected to strike around the U.S. on Friday to demand safer conditions, while other groups organized rallies to protest stay-at-home orders they say are crippling the economy. The nation’s death toll was put at more than 60,000.

Governors are weighing just how far they should go in easing stay-at-home orders. In the hardest-hit corner of the U.S., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said schools and colleges will remain closed through the rest of the academic year.

Lacey Ward, an Omaha hairstylist, said she is worried that the Nebraska governor’s decision to let salons reopen on May 4 could put her and her family at risk. She would prefer to collect unemployment until the danger subsides.

“I feel like we are literally the guinea pigs in this situation,” she said.

May Day is a state holiday in many countries, but lockdowns mean this is the first time that Russia — whose prime minister has the virus — will not hold mass demonstrations on Red Square.

In Turkey, police and protesters wearing masks faced off in Istanbul, and 15 people were detained for defying confinement rules.

In the Czech Republic, people honked horns, played drums or shouted at midday in a special “noisy protest” over the government’s handling of the crisis.

Some Paris residents defied home confinement rules to hold unauthorized protests. Others staged a midday musical protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s handling of the pandemic, singing from balconies and windows.

A holiday atmosphere enlivened South Africa’s streets, as May Day was also when the country began easing its strict lockdown. People were permitted to walk outside for exercise, and some returned to work.

The country where the coronavirus first erupted also continued opening up again: All tickets for China’s majestic Forbidden City were sold out for the May 1-5 holiday, though attendance was limited to 5,000 visitors a day, down from the earlier maximum of 80,000.


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