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With basic income, tomorrow we celebrate Machine Labour Day

cartoon-robot-labor-dayWhat would you do with a monthly salary, separate and in addition to any other salary, but earned as a right of citizenship and sufficient for you to meet your most basic needs for life? That’s basic income, and that’s what Basic Income Day is about in recognition of the 21st century.

Popularly known as May Day or Labour Day, May 1st has long been a day to internationally recognize the contributions of the global labor movement and its many struggles and achievements over the years. However, where unions once empowered labor and gave us the 40-hour week and the 8-hour day, globalization and advances in technology have severely eroded the ability of unions to effect change.

As automation of the workplace continues to the tune of potentially eliminating half of all current jobs by 2033, and in addition eroding any sense of financial security or consumer buying power through the growth of part-time jobs, low-paid work, temp labor, gig labor, freelancing, and zero-hour contracts, unconditional basic incomerepresents the ability to empower all labor on an individual basis. A newly gained ability to say “No” to any and all employers would have an undeniable effect on individual bargaining power. That means greater sharing of profits and higher wages, better hours and workplace conditions, more benefits, etc.

The achievement of basic income would be the achievement of a new voluntary contract on more equal footing between employer and employee, including the empowerment of the employee to become their own employer by UBI’s functioning as venture capital for the people. It would mean a new age of greater equality, innovation,productivity, and entrepreneurship, where all are finally free to pursue the goals they wish to pursue, and all work could be recognized for its societal value, instead of only paid work as it stands now. Isn’t it time we started recognizing all the important labor going unpaid?

Even Andy Stern, former President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in a forthcoming book explains how basic income is the future of the labor movement, and the policy we must all together now strive for in the 21st century. It’s an idea whose time has come.

This is the century of technological emancipation from labor itself. We made it. We’re here. We need only actually embrace it. Unemployment is not something to fear. It is something to welcome.

Without basic income, on the 1st of May we celebrate Human Labour Day.

With basic income, tomorrow we celebrate Machine Labour Day.

So what can you do?

There are many ways to support the idea and to help grow the movement for Basic Income. For one, take part in Basic Income Day by supporting Thunderclap and by changing your profile photos and sharing basic income content across all social media networks on May 1st. Last year we reached 700,000 people. This year, let’s reach over 1 million!

What else can you do any day of the year?

Join the growing global movement to create an income floor for everyone.

May first was never a fight for labour but always for income!


If unions were our allies, they allready would support an Uncondidional Bais Income. They do not! In Germany we have smaler sections of the Union for the public sector fighting for it – but they don’t get a chance to overcome the resistance within their own folks. So that’s about it.

I would love to wellcome all the unions. But if I cannot, because they reject even considering this progressive idea of a BIG – well … – I will not stop just to make it comfortable for them ….

In history redesigning a holiday have happened always and replaced a feast by something else – see Easter (Spring-Celebration), Christmas (Winter-Solstice) and so on.

Also I don’t consider the BIG only “combating poverty, social exclusion and economic inequality” – I consider BIG a HUMAN RIGHT. I demand human dignity and the realisation of real freedom and real democracy. To get rid of poverty is just a wellcome sideeffect.

We need to understand:
there was never a fight for labour – or “work” – it always was a fight for income!

[as we wrongly use that word as it is the “biggest stupidity of the 21st century” (Guy Standing)].

And no – it is not the saying part, it is the listening part. I can clearly state that I always communicate the need of rethinking “work” (now used as in averything that can be done by any human being) – and also that unions will not be obsolete once we have a BIG, because we still will need organized forces to propose good working conditions.

But – as always with human beings – those who are active in unions have their own strategy in mind – like minimum wages. Minimum wages are great as long as we don’t have a BIG implemented – after that it not only will be useless, but also hindering.

Fact is – and we need to face this reality – we are interfering with union’s strategies (at least as long as both groups don’t find a way to build up solidarity – which is not a one-way road).

Rushing-ahead-obedience is not a strategy that will help anyone – if unions are the natural allies – well, then, let them come; I am waiting for a long time and urgendtly expecting those who “happily support” us
– but I will not crawl before some “potential” ally.

This article was first published on

About Felix Coeln

Felix Coeln is for around 30 years civically engaged, for example, in the emancipation work, namesake of Schulz (Sch-wulen u nd L-Esben Z Entrum, Cologne 1985 – 2003). Since 2005 Basic Income activist. Since 2010 board member of the Cologne Initiative basic income e. V., in Europe with presentations, among others for BGE go.