Milwaukee Area Labor Council hosts Philippine union leader Elmer Labog for solidarity tour
Milwaukee, WI – Trade union leaders welcomed the chairman of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, to Milwaukee, October 4 and 5. The KMU is the largest and most militant labor coalition in the Philippines. Its name translates to May First Movement, a reference to the revolutionary workers’ holiday of May Day.
Ka Bong spoke before the full delegate meeting of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, detailing the violent repression that trade unionists are facing from the Philippine government. The Philippine government is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the southeast Asian region. Ka Bong received a standing ovation after his moving testimony, and delegates of the labor council generously raised hundreds of dollars to support and defend Philippine trade unionists.
To coincide with Ka Bong’s visit, the Milwaukee Area Labor Council (MALC) renewed its 2019 solidarity resolution with Philippine labor, this time calling for the urgent passage and signing of the Philippines Human Rights Act (PHRA). The PHRA would suspend U.S. military aid to the Philippines. MALC President Pam Fendt presented Ka Bong with the solidarity resolution before the delegate body.
On October 5, Ka Bong joined UAW Local 75 workers on the picket line at the Stellantis parts distribution center in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. Ka Bong met with local UAW leaders as well as members of AFT Local 212, who also joined the picket in solidarity. He then traveled a short way with local trade union activists to visit the Bay View Massacre historical marker, where seven striking workers and bystanders were shot and killed by state forces during the 1886 general strike for the eight-hour day.
In the evening, Ka Bong returned to the Labor Council for a longer event and potluck hosted by MALC’s Young Workers Committee, the Milwaukee Anti-war Committee, the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the Chicago chapter of Anakbayan USA, the U.S.-based branch of an international Filipino youth organization fighting for justice in the Philippines. Representatives of each organization talked about how the struggle in the Philippines is connected to the struggle of workers and activists in the U.S., and they gathered signatures for a petition to stop U.S. military aid to the Philippines.
Ka Bong spoke about the many ways that the new Marcos Jr. regime is just as repressive and inhumane as the old Duterte and Marcos Sr. regimes. Less than 5% of Philippine workers have unions, and the national minimum wage is less than $11 per day – not nearly enough to raise a family under high inflation.
He said critics of the government are being harassed, threatened, disciplined, deported and killed. One of the latest victims of the repressive Marcos regime, veteran KMU union organizer Jude Fernandez, was murdered by police on September 29. Attendees held up “Justice for Jude Fernandez” signs and took solidarity photos to spread awareness of the campaign.