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Pope Francis, Vladimir Putin Pay Tribute to Laborers on May Day

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- People around the world celebrated workers' rights Wednesday, May 1, also known as May Day -- International Workers' Day.

As many protested job cuts, slave labor and poor working conditions, Pope Francis joined the chorus calling unemployment "socially unjust" and calling for world leaders to re-launch the employment sector. During his weekly audience at St. Peter's Square, the pope said poverty and economic inequity were caused by economic thinking "based on selfish profit outside the bounds of social justice."  

His message about unemployment hit home, particularly with locals. Italy, the third-largest economy in the 17-nation eurozone, has suffered years of anemic growth and is currently in recession. The unemployment rate stands at eleven and a half percent and it's almost 40 percent among "young people."

In Russia, people marked the annual labor celebration, with traditions rooted in the country's Soviet past, as union leaders led marches throughout the country. The biggest marches took place in Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin revived some old Soviet traditions on May Day. He celebrated by honoring five people with the Hero of Labor of Russia award, an echo of the May Days of a bygone era.

But for many there, May 1 was more of the beginning of a long weekend than a celebration of workers. A recent poll found a vast majority of Russians had no plans to march.

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