How many workers, unions do we have?
GÜNGÖR URASAccording to accumulated data, we have 10.8 million registered workers. Forming a trade union and becoming a member of a trade union is every worker’s right. Being a member of a trade union is not obligatory; it is voluntary. Out of the total 10.8 million workers, 1 million of them are members of a union, corresponding to 9.21 percent of the total. In a simple wording, out of every 10 workers, one of them has become a member of a trade union.
Nowadays, there are a total of 92 trade unions in various labor sectors. For a trade union to be authorized for a collective contract in a workplace, it should first represent at least 3 percent of all the workers in that sector and then at least half of the workers in that workplace should be members of the union. The sector threshold is applied in stages. For the moment, the number of trade unions that have passed the 1 percent threshold is 49.
Only one trade union in one workplace can have the right and power to make a collective contract.
The biggest trade unions are Türk Metal with 151,000 members, Teksif with 54,000 members, Hizmet-İş with 51,000 members, Tez Koop-İş with 50,000 members, Tes-İş with 45,000 members and Belediye-İş with 41,000.
The unions have been collected under the umbrella of three major confederations. Among these three major confederations, those that are members of Türk-İş represent 71 percent of the total of those workers who are members of a trade union, while Hak-iş represents 16 percent and Disk 10 percent.
Labor Day for 127 years
Today, just as in many other countries, Turkey will also celebrate “Labor Day.”
The reason the day May 1 has become a day for workers is because of a labor movement in the United States in 1886.
On the day May 1, 1886, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, the predecessor of the American Federation of Labor, went on strike in order to decrease the daily working hours from 12 hours to eight hours. This strike ended with bloody clashes on May 4; however, thanks to this action of the trade unions, later, the 12-hour working day has been changed into and accepted as an eight-hour working day in the United States and in many other countries in the world.
Because of this, the day May 1 has been declared as a day of unity and solidarity among workers and laborers and of struggle against injustices.
It was the year 1912 when May 1 was celebrated as Labor Day for the first time in Istanbul. In 1923, May 1 was declared the Workers Holiday. Later, in various periods, the May 1 celebrations were forbidden. The name of May 1 was transformed into “Spring Holiday.”
Despite the fact that trade unions have lost their strength relatively in the world and in Turkey as a result of new formations in global capital movements, in Turkey, as in many other countries, the day May 1 continues to be celebrated as Labor Day.
I wish a happy holiday to all our workers.
Güngör Uras is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on May 1. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.