A day meant to honor working people, Labor Day is celebrated in September in the United States and Canada, while the rest of the world honors working men and women on May 1.

A small group of Santa Cruzans celebrated International Labor Day last Thursday by meeting at the Santa Cruz Town Clock downtown to protest for workers’ rights.

Dennis Etler, an individual at the protest, said the holiday serves as a day of unity.
“The idea is to bring people together to say where we stand,” Etler said. “Workers of all backgrounds, genders, religions and preferences share one thing in common — they live by the labor by their own hands.”

Shaun Phillips, a Santa Cruz resident who moved to the United States from Australia six years ago, said he is worried the jobs being produced in this country are not able to improve the economy.

“It’s a pretty bad situation,” Phillips said. “We’ve seen a new trend in creating temporary jobs instead of permanent ones. It worries me, it really does.”

Between 2008 and 2012, 14.4 percent of Santa Cruz residents lived below the poverty line, while 15.3 percent of California residents lived below the poverty line, according to the United States Census Bureau. The city’s average salary per worker in 2013 was $50,519, a little below the state average of $51,910, according to the state’s official economic forecast.

Santa Cruz has not fixed the unemployment boost prompted by the 2008 recession. Before the recession, the county unemployment rate was 7.3 percent, but as of March 2014, the county’s unemployment rate was 10.8 percent, according to the state of California website.

Jenny Piraino, one of the event coordinators, said it was important for people to come together in support of workers’ rights.

“There’s a strength in numbers,” Piraino said. “If you look at people who join unions, at least at one point, people formed together because they felt like they didn’t have a voice alone.”

The problems affecting the workers affect all citizens, said Dennis Etler, an individual at the protest. Members at the protest spoke about a lack of solidarity in the workforce and the apprehension for American workers to establish these connections.

International Labor Day serves as a day to stand up for the issues affecting everyone in the working class. Individuals who celebrate and cheer on this day aren’t simply out there for self-benefit, they want to see a more significant improvement and support for everyone within society.

“I also celebrate Labor Day in September,” Phillips said. “It’s necessary to do this at least one day a year, if not more.”