Workers demand better jobs, pay on May Day
BERLIN – Some 400,000 people took to the streets in Germany on Sunday as marchers around the world demanded more jobs, better working conditions and higher wages on International Workers' Day.
In Turkey, some 200,000 protesters flooded a central plaza in Istanbul, making it the largest May Day rally there since 1977, when at least 34 people died and more than 100 were injured after shooting triggered a stampede. Turkish unions weren't allowed back until last year.
Across Germany, some 423,000 people took to the streets to demand fair wages, better working conditions, and sufficient social security, the country's unions' umbrella-group, DGB said.
Union group head Michael Sommer said the turnout — similar to last year's — was a clear message to the government that it should give up its refusal to introduce a national minimum wage.
"Fair wages, good jobs and social security are the minimum standard in this country that workers expect, need and have to fight for time and again," Sommer said at a protest in the central German town of Kassel.
In Berlin, several rallies were scattered across the capital, with police saying ten thousand people had taken to the streets.
Some 8,000 gathered late in the afternoon at a rally called for by leftist groups, with police out in force as past demonstrations had turned violent. Marchers carried banners saying "This is the least: fair salaries, fair jobs."
Across the city, some 6,000 security forces were deployed Sunday to monitor the protests, police said.
In Austria, more than 100,000 people peacefully took to the streets of Vienna, protest organizers said. Social Democratic Chancellor Werner Faymann promised social policies and warned against leaving too much room to financial speculation, Austrian news agency APA reported.
In New York, labor leaders from Wisconsin joined activists to march for the rights of America's immigrants and workers. Immigration advocates latched onto the May Day tradition in 2006.
The noon rally in Manhattan's Union Square was one of dozens around the nation. Marchers planned to walk down Broadway to lower Manhattan for a second rally.
In Cuba, hundreds of thousands of people marched through Havana and other cities to mark May Day in a demonstration touted as a vast show of support for economic changes recently approved by the Communist Party.
In South Korea, police said 50,000 rallied in Seoul for better labor protections. They also urged the government to contain rising inflation, a growing concern across much of Asia, where food and oil prices have been spiking and threatening to push millions into poverty.
Thousands of workers also marched in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines to vent their anger over the rising cost of living and growing disparities between the rich and poor.
Several thousand people turned out for May Day demonstrations in Paris, including supporters of the far-right National Front party whose new president, Marine Le Pen, stressed her party's long-standing anti-immigrant stance.
In the Philippines, about 3,000 workers demanding higher wages held a protest in a Manila square that included setting alight the effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III grinning in a luxury car. Aquino was criticized this year for buying a secondhand Porsche in a country where a third of people live on a dollar a day.
In Taiwan, about 2,000 people rallied in Taipei to protest the widening income gap and to demand their government create better work conditions. About 3,000 people in Hong Kong took part in a Sunday morning protest while another 5,000 were expected at an afternoon rally, local media reports said.
In Spain, where unemployment has reached a eurozone high of 21.3 percent, several thousand people gathered in the eastern port city of Valencia and protested the government's failure to create new jobs.
In Moscow, up to 5,000 Communists and members of other leftist groups marched through the city carrying a sea of red flags to celebrate their traditional holiday, which in Soviet times was known as the Day of International Solidarity of Workers.
Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the holiday has been known as the Day of Spring and Labor, and organizations from across the political spectrum held their own marches on Sunday.
The dominant pro-Kremlin party, United Russia, gathered the largest crowd by pulling in workers from factories and institutes in and around Moscow. Party organizers claimed that 25,000 people took part.
Hacaoglu reported from Istanbul. Associated Press writers Christopher Torchia in Istanbul, Kelvin K. Chan in Hong Kong, Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, Aaron Favilo in Manila, Philippines, Lynn Berry in Moscow, Russia and Harold Heckle in Madrid, Spain, Peter Orsi and Andrea Rodriguez in Cuba and Jenny Barchfield in Paris, France contributed to this report.