Solidarity, dignity, empathy in times of coronavirus - 125 quotes on Labour Day 2020

On the occasion of Labour Day, we salute those at the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19, ranging from healthcare and supply-chain workers to migrants and informal labourers.

1st May 2020
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May 1 is celebrated around the world as May Day or Labour Day. This year, the COVID-19 crisis is exposing uncomfortable truths about inequalities in societies around the world and stark contrasts in our lifestyles.


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During the extended lockdown, some hop on to a chain of webinars, or discuss what movie to watch next, or share videos of exotic dishes cooked up in the kitchen. But the reality outside is grim for sectors and communities devastated by the pandemic.


The quotes in this compilation reflect gratitude to the spirit and dignity of labour across all ages and sectors. Their messages reinforce the importance of respect, solidarity, and human rights in these dark hours.


In this collection of quotes, we span a wide range of labour, including gig workers, contract labour, migrants, farmers, and the informal sector. We also look at inclusive workforce practices to empower more women, the differently-abled, and marginalised communities, and laws against child labour.


Other perspectives include how emerging technologies like AI/ML will impact labour. The gig economy has thrown up controversies over legal definitions of jobs and rights of gig workers. During the COVID-19 crisis, attacks against healthworkers have spurred governments to pass laws protecting their rights and criminalising such attacks.


There are so many people to thank for making our world a better place, and whom we need to support even more during these months of crisis. Health professionals, cleaners, delivery staff, security personnel, NGOs feeding the needy - the list goes on and on.


Across the political spectrum, leaders and activists have varying perspectives of the rights and responsibilities of labour. What is clear today is that workers need food security and protection of health and livelihood even more so in the coming years.


The quotes in this compilation are drawn from YourStory articles and Storybites columns, as well as a range of online resources. See also our Resource Centre for Startups and SMBs, and our pick of 60 quotes on coping with a crisis.


All labour that uplifts humanity has dignity. - Martin Luther King, Jr.


Labour disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labour. - Ulysses S. Grant


As we celebrate Labour Day, we honour the men and women who fought tirelessly for workers' rights, which are so critical to our strong and successful labour force. - Elizabeth Esty


The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Mahatma Gandhi


There is a triangular relationship between poverty, child labour and, illiteracy who have a cause and consequence relationship. We will have to break this vicious circle. - Kailash Satyarthi


The Millennium Development Goals were a pledge to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity, and free the world from extreme poverty. - Ban Ki-moon


The labour movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. - Martin Luther King, Jr.


The place of labour is side by side with the businessman and the farmer - and not one degree lower. - Harry S. Truman


Business, labour, and civil society organisations have skills and resources that are vital in helping to build a more robust global community. - Kofi Annan


Work is no disgrace; the disgrace is idleness. - Greek proverb


Take not from the mouth of labour, the bread that it has earned. - Thomas Jefferson


Workers' rights should be a central focus of development. - Joseph Stiglitz



A man is not paid for having a head and hands, but for using them. - Elbert Hubbard


Every historical form of society is in its foundation a form of organisation of labour. - Leon Trotsky


Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. - Thomas Jefferson


From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. - Karl Marx


Fundamentally, the basis of all modern progress is the efficiency of labour. - Charles M. Schwab


Human dignity is based upon freedom, and freedom upon human dignity. The one presupposes the other. - Rollo May


It is essential that there should be organisation of labour. This is an era of organisation. Capital organises and therefore labour must organise. - Theodore Roosevelt


It is not the quantity but the quality of knowledge which determines the mind's dignity. - William Ellery Channing


It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one's dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. - W. Somerset Maugham


It was the labour movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the union label. - Barack Obama



Overwork is repulsive to human nature-not work. - Pyotr Kropotkin


Schooling doesn't assure employment but skill does. - Amit Kalantri


The gig economy is empowerment. - John McAfee


There is no surer token of a little mind than to imagine that anything in the way of physical labour is dishonoring. - Orison Swett Marden


What we've lost sight of is that performing manual labour with your hands is one of the most incredibly satisfying and positive things you can do. - Nick Offerman


The most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anybody has is his personal dignity. - Jackie Robinson


When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him. - Bayard Rustin


Peace demands the most heroic labour and the most difficult sacrifice. - Thomas Merton


Why are you all wasting human labour and the world’s wealth in building machinery to commit mass murder? - Eden Phillpotts


Without labour nothing prospers. - Sophocles


Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life. - Marc Chagall



No race can prosper until it learns there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. - Booker T. Washington


Agriculture was the first occupation of man, and as it embraces the whole earth, it is the foundation of all other industries. - Edward W. Stewart


Agriculture is the noblest of all alchemy; for it turns earth, and even manure, into gold, conferring upon its cultivator the additional reward of health. - Paul Chatfield


Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness. - Thomas Jefferson


Farming is a profession of hope. - Brett Brian


Farming is inescapably a part of human life that it may provide a clue to what is most basically human, and so a clue to our place within the cosmos. - Stephanie Nelson


Farming isn’t a battle against nature, but a partnership with it. It is respecting the basics of nature in action and ensuring that they continue. - Jeff Koehler


A farmer is a magician who produces money from the mud. - Amit Kalantri


The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer. - Will Rogers


The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways. - John F. Kennedy


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka


To a farmer, dirt is not a waste, it is wealth. - Amit Kalantri



Having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own. - Andy Warhol


Factory farming came about from a moral race to the bottom, with corporations vying against each other to produce more and bigger animals with less care at lower cost. - Matthew Scully


If the rain spoils our picnic, but saves a farmer’s crop, who are we to say it shouldn’t rain? - Tom Barrett


If you tickle the earth with a hoe she laughs with a harvest. - Douglas Jerrold


It is impossible to have a healthy and sound society without a proper respect for the soil. - Peter Maurin


Life on a farm is a school of patience; you can’t hurry the crops or make an ox in two days. - Henri Alain


Strong communities are built around local, real food. Food we trust to nourish our bodies, the farmer and planet. - Kimbal Musk


The cities are but the branches of the tree of national life, the roots of which go deeply into the land. We all flourish or decline with the farmer. - Bernard Baruch


We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist. - Wendell Berry


While farmers contribute to our survival, let us also do our part by showing them respect in form of not wasting food. - Mohith Agadi


When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civillisation. - Daniel Webster



Although women do two-thirds of the world's labour, they own less than one percent of the world's assets. - Isabel Allende


I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved. – B.R. Ambedkar


Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance. - Kofi Annan


No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens. - Michelle Obama


If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair. - Shirley Chisholm


Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult. - Charlotte Whitton


Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone's responsibility. - Ban Ki-moon


No man can call himself liberal, or radical, or even a conservative advocate of fair play, if his work depends in any way on the unpaid or underpaid labour of women at home, or in the office. - Gloria Steinem


For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. - Audre Lorde


Gender parity is just not good for women - it’s good for societies. - Angelica Fuentes


Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Give a woman a fish and she'll feed the whole family for a week! - Cameron Semmens


Life is not a competition between men and woman. It is a collaboration. - David Alejandro Fearnhead


Urging an organisation to be inclusive is not an attack. It's progress. - DaShanne Stokes


Only collective strength and action will allow us to be free to fight for the kind of society that meets basic human needs. - Roxanne Dunbar



This pandemic is a collective crisis, more so for daily-wage workers who have been rendered without work and therefore meals. - K Ganesh


In the absence of a migrant labour workforce, our economy would come to a standstill. - Divya Varma


In the fight to end this crisis, we truly can't afford to lose anyone behind. - Priyanka Chopra Jonas


Let us all take a moment to thank everybody around the world who are helping to defend us against this pandemic. - Rachna Muralidhar


Now is the time for us to look after the people who work for us. When a company steps up at a time like this, it builds loyalty, commitment, and long-lasting teams. - Arjun Agarwal


The crisis is worse for healthcare workers and police personnel who must choose between caring for pandemic victims and caring for their own children. - Kunal Malik


The group most prone to coronavirus includes homeless people and migrant labourers, who commute from one place to another on a daily basis to make ends meet. - Priya Sogani


If you invest in people during tough times, you will earn their loyalty for the long term. - Kaur Sidhu


Immigrants show up. They've shown up for work, shown up for this economy, and shown up with their political and social will. - Tenzin Seldon



Even if the lockdown is unlocked, with the reverse migration that has taken place, it will take another year to get people back. - Velumani A


Everyday we are hearing heroic stories of how those on the frontlines are working around the clock to protect the public. - Ruchee Anand


Gig economy workers, often paid by the hour and with no sick leave privileges, end up delaying visiting doctors until their health situation worsens. - Srikanth Chunduri


It's the era of gig workers, distributed teams, flexible working models and fishnet organisations with malleable structures. - Sanjay Kapoor


Companies should be focused on developing a strategic plan for workplace flexibility, digitisation, virtual collabouration, and well being in the workplace. - Anshuman Magazine


Everyone wants work-life balance, so employers should shape a differentiated experience to attract the best talent. - Paul D’Arcy


Globally, on average, for every 10,000 workers, there are 75 to 80 robots available. - Satyanarayana P


Human capital is the most precious of all forms of capital available. - Ajay Ramasubramaniam



In a vast country like India, where the unorganised sector is predominant, entrepreneurship can be a key enabler in employment generation. - Rajesh Agrawal


India thrives when small and medium entrepreneurial ventures succeed. - Nikhil Arora


SMEs are the backbone of the economy and if India is to continue to witness high growth, then supporting them is non-negotiable. - Harshvardhan Lunia


Investments in skills and education can be directly mapped to a country’s commitment to economic growth. - Vineet Chaturvedi


Several youngsters across India do not get a chance to work on their vocational skills due to outdated education systems, inaccessibility, poverty, and other external factors. - Namrata Baruah


People in rural areas tend to migrate to cities in search of a better job and lifestyle, leaving behind ancient culture and art forms. - Kalyani Gongi


The impact of heat stress on labour productivity is a serious consequence of climate change. - Catherine Saget, ILO


The new normal will be that 20 percent of the workforce will always work from home on a rotational basis. - Kris Gopalakrishnan


Wanting to help those who are helping us by doing their job highlights the strength of humanity. - Atul Satija


It is a trap to be satisfied; one always needs to change the status quo. - David Gurlé


You have to reinvent yourself every 10-20 years. - Harsh Mariwala



Empowerment is not a fruit that someone gives you on a tree; it's a sense of belief that you are equal and you deserve equality in every walk of life. - Gul Panag


Women are no longer envisaged as mere homemakers. They are being seen as upcoming entrepreneurs possessing numerous abilities. - Anjali Mohan


If India has to become a $5 trillion economy, companies need to hire more female workers. - Jyoti Nath


By empowering communities to deal with the differently abled, we can create a society of tomorrow where we are respected for our differences and not judged on the same. - Ganga Changappa


Inclusion is a pre-requisite for a diverse workforce to function effectively. - Archana Sasan


No organisation/committee can, on its own, provide a safe or positive/inclusive workplace to any employee without the equal reciprocation of such values by the employees. - Ashwini Vittalachar


Ultimately, the greatest lesson that COVID-19 can teach humanity is that we are all in this together. - Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw


Our life is about respectful cohabitation. - Sathya Raghu V. Mokkapati


Tough times call for tough measures, executed through compassion and empathy. - Agnelorajesh Athaide


The power of togetherness is the greatest power of all. - Iti Rawat


YourStory has also published the pocketbook Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups, as a creative and motivational guide for innovators (downloadable as apps here: Apple, Android).


(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)

Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.

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