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Labor advocates take fight to social media

MANILA, Philippines - The campaign for workers’ rights is now in social media.

Unified hashtag #May1Fight aims to consolidate online discussion on yesterday’s Labor Day activities.

However, social media will not be used as an alternative to protest actions, but a complementary move to disseminate information about the struggles of workers.

In a phone interview with The STAR, Carlos Maningat of the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research said labor groups decided to use the unified #May1Fight hashtag to engage netizens on issues involving workers.

On holiday in Boracay, some netizens used the hashtag #LaBoracay to post updates on activities in the popular summer destination.

Data culled using analytics tool Hashtags.org showed that tweets containing the hashtag #LaBoracay reached as many as 200 per hour yesterday.

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It was more than the 70 per hour tweets that contain the hashtag #May1Fight.

The data are based on a one percent sample of all tweets in the past 24 hours as provided by Twitter’s Application Programming Interface.

Another analytics tool, Hashtracking, showed somewhat similar results as it collected over 1,400 tweets containing the #LaBoracay hashtag starting April 30. 

Only over 400 tweets containing #May1Fight were collected by the analytics tool.

Both hashtags failed to make it to the Twitter trending list, unlike the more generic phrases like #MayWish, #MayNa, and Happy Labor Day.

In an article in alternative news website Bulatlat.com, advocates also urged members of the labor force to use social media “for faster communication of workers’ issues and speedier unification for holding collective actions.”

Neil Ambion of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) was quoted as saying in the article: “Let’s not allow Vhong Navarro or Kris Aquino to hog the top spots in trending at the social media.”

Blogger Tonyo Cruz said the use of a unified hashtag is important in coordinating events or activities like those that happened yesterday.

“We have done it before, for instance during typhoons,” he said.

Cruz said the choice of the hashtag also speaks a lot about the objectives of the activities.

“It encapsulates the call of the workers, which is to fight (for their rights),” he said.

It also provides a history on the origin of the holiday – which is the fight of workers for an eight-hour work schedule, he added.

Maningat said they have nothing against the use of #LaBoracay as everyone is free to post what they want on social media.

In an article in the Philippine Online Chronicles, he said: “But we cannot blame them, for their ignorance is only shaped by a socio-economic structure that is increasingly reversing the gains of workers’ movements and burrowing labor and unionism in oblivion.”

Maningat said that the use of #May1Fight hashtag could balance the Labor Day discussions on social media and may even inform those in Boracay of the true spirit of Labor Day.

“Hopefully, they can read our posts and learn about issues of workers,” he said.

Maningat said those on holiday in Boracay might find time to talk to local workers and discuss their problems.

“Today, workers will not be enjoying a luxurious time in Boracay,” he said. “They will be the men and women busily serving the Laboracay-goers. In Manila and elsewhere, they will be in throngs marching on the streets, fighting for labor rights. In social media, they will register their common voice simultaneously with massive protests via #May1Fight.”

Cruz added that the use of two hashtags has no conflict as some of those on holiday in Boracay might be workers themselves.

“Labor Day is a national holiday,” he said. “Going out on vacation is a part of it.” 

The website laboracay.com described the term as “a summer party celebration in Boracay.”

“Famous artists both local and foreign often visit Boracay during this time,” the website said.

“It is marked by intense partying by the beach, lots of booze and good music.”

The website said Labor Day is often marked by protests and demonstrations on the streets in Manila, but that it is not remotely related to partying at Boracay.

“It’s more probable that Labor Day was chosen because it’s the peak of summer time in the Philippines,” the website said.


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