Workers reestablish May Day in USA as day of struggle
Published May 8, 2008 12:15 AM
For the third consecutive year U.S. workers reclaimed their historic holiday,
which originated with Chicago labor struggles for the 8-hour day in the 1880s.
The dominant call this year was for full rights for 12 million undocumented
WW photo: Lal Roohk
In many cities opposition to raids conducted by Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) was linked with demands against police brutality after the
acquittal of New York City police officers who fired the 50 bullets that
fatally cut down Sean Bell on the eve of his wedding in November 2006.
NEW YORK CITY
Young and old of all nationalities, thousands of people converged on Union
Square in Manhattan honoring International Workers Day and demanding full
rights for all immigrants.
Charles Jenkins leads May Day march into
NY Police Plaza to demand justice for Sean
Bell, killed in a hail of 50 police bullets.
WW photo: Lal Roohk
Participants included several contingents of high school youth who walked out
of school to support immigrant and worker rights, and to demand an end to
budget cuts in education. One contingent arrived at the rally chanting,
“Workers of the world unite!”
The crowd heard speeches and cultural performances from the many communities
that make up New York City, including the Haitian, Filipino, African and
African-American communities. Feeder marches from Chinatown filed into Union
One popular placard expressed solidarity with the family of Sean Bell. After
the march ended at Foley Square, a smaller march converged on New York
City’s police headquarters to protest racist police brutality and the
criminal “justice” system.
WW photo: Liz Green
The immigrant communities of East Boston, Everett and Chelsea turned out
demanding, “Stop the Raids and Deportations, Legalization Now, Justice
for All!” The organizing was spearheaded by Gladys Vega and the Chelsea
Collaborative, a strong immigrants’ rights community organization.
Hundreds gathered at Central Square in East Boston and in front of City Hall in
Everett, then converged on City Hall in Chelsea, where thousands participated
in a spirited rally.
In East Boston, City Councilor Chuck Turner gave a keynote talk connecting
immigrant rights to the fight against foreclosures, workers’ rights and
against racism. The march from Everett was led by Bishop Filipe Teixeira; Tony
Hernandez of District Council 35, Painters and Allied Trades; and Chelsea
Strong union support and solidarity was shown by SEIU and USW Local 8751, the
Boston School Bus Union, which provided sound trucks and a spirited contingent
of mostly Haitian rank-and-file members.
The Indigenous dance group Danza Mexica Cuauhtémoc de Arizona led a march
of over 2,000 people, including many youth and labor unionists, up South 6th
Ave. to downtown Armory Park.
Speakers from high school and Community College Chicano Student Movement of
Aztlan (MeChA) chapters condemned Arizona State Senate Bill 1108, which if
passed would outlaw cultural, ethnic and women’s studies programs at
schools receiving state funds, and disallow cultural or ethnic organizations to
meet at these schools.
Leaders of Tucson SEIU and UFCW spoke on the connection between Free Trade
Agreements and the forced emigration of millions from Latin America. They urged
support for workers at Tucson’s Food City grocery stores fighting to
unionize. Speakers emphasized the need to stop militarization of the border,
say “No” to the border wall, end the building of private prisons
and demand legalization for all.
WW photo: Alan Pollock
Marching down the main street in Detroit’s Latin@ community, the crowd
grew to 2,000 demanding an end to the raids and deportations that separate
families. Many businesses and schools closed.
Speakers included Baldemar Velázquez, president of the Farm Labor
Organizing Committee; an organizer of the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for
Immigrant Rights, which is vigorously fighting raids; a student from the
University of Michigan; and David Sole, president of UAW Local 2334. The event
was organized by Latinos Unidos.
Latin@s, immigrant rights activists and state legislators gathered at the
Georgia State Capitol for an enthusiastic rally sponsored by Georgia Latino
Association for Human Rights to demand, “Stop the Raids and
Deportations!” and immediate, just immigration reform. The crowd of 300
carried signs with the messages: “Workers are not criminals!”
“Legalization now!” and “We have a dream too!”
Georgia has imposed some of the most racist and right-wing anti-immigrant
measures in the country. A law passed this spring by the Georgia Assembly would
confiscate the vehicle of anyone found to be driving without a license. It is
illegal in Georgia to obtain a driver’s license without documents.
In Carrollton, Ga., 70 people marched, calling for an end to
raids and racial profiling. Although marchers talked about the atmosphere of
fear caused by ICE agents coming to businesses and people’s homes, they
stated proudly that their march followed in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther
King and César Chávez.
The Baldwin Wallace College FIST chapter in the Cleveland suburb of Berea held
a May Day celebration and educational program. BW student Mae Haury spoke of
the devastation caused by NAFTA. Martha Grevatt, a Chrysler worker and member
of her UAW local’s executive board, called May Day a holiday “not
of rest, but of revolt.” BW student and FIST chapter founder Caleb Maupin
spoke of social revolution.
Don Bryant of the Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network reported on Arab
and Muslim people being “disappeared” or deported. Armando Labra of
Latinos Unidos described the separation of Latino families, prisons for
children, and deportation of U.S. citizens when papers can’t be
immediately produced—an atmosphere contributing to the rise in Ku Klux
Klan activity and that of other hate groups.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
In addition to the huge ILWU work stoppage [See article on page 1], many other
actions took place in the San Francisco Bay Area with thousands in the streets
demanding immigrant and worker rights and calling for an end to U.S. wars
against Afghanistan and Iraq.
Direct Action to Stop the War gathered at 6:00 a.m. at entrances to the Port of
Oakland urging truckers and railroad workers to join the ILWU work stoppage.
The unifying goal of May Day was on their banner: “The War Is Illegal,
People Are Not!” In the predominantly Latin@ Mission neighborhood, Barrio
Unido marched for “Amnesty and Open Borders.”
Students at San Francisco State University walked out of class, protesting fee
hikes. They stopped traffic and marched into the city joining immigrant and
worker rights forces gathering in Dolores Park. Staff, teachers and students at
the June Jordan School for Equity took the day off for a “field
trip” and joined the rally.
The May 1st S.F. coalition organized the gathering in Dolores Park around the
slogan “Workers United Without Borders.” With everyone joining in,
they marched through the streets of the Mission, chanting, “We are
people, we are not illegal!” ending with a rally at City Hall.
In celebration of International Workers Day, workers participated in massive
numbers in marches and rallies spanning the globe. From over one-half million
filling the streets of Havana, Cuba, to three dozen migrant farmworkers walking
the highway in Kennett Square, Pa., the message of working-class solidarity in
the face of capitalist global exploitation was loud and clear: United workers
have power and won’t be turned back!
The next morning, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided 11 Bay
Area El Balazo restaurants. Over 60 workers, accused of being
“illegals,” were “detained.” This act of terror by an
agency of the federal government underscores the very reason immigrant workers
and supporters have continued to march on May Day.
The waterfront cranes sat idle as the longshoremen’s union (ILWU) went on
strike against U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Waterfront companies
reportedly lost tens of millions of dollars.
At noon, 3,000 workers marched two miles down the waterfront to Port of Seattle
headquarters for a big rally. Longshoremen from Local 19, who turned out in the
hundreds, were joined by members of the Inland Boatmen’s Union and other
unions, anti-war, and immigrant rights organizations. The action was a stunning
display of working class internationalism with the workers of Iraq and
Later 10,000 supporters of immigrant rights marched from Judkins Park, through
the Asian community and into downtown receiving strong support along the way.
The action countered the government’s mass mobilization of military
forces blanketing the country with raids, imprisonment and deportations of
The mobilization’s theme was, “We are not undocumented. We are not
illegal. We are workers!” and “For an immigration reform with
human, labor and civil rights!” The march, rally and boycott were called
by The Committee for Immigration Reform and Social Justice.
Some 20,000 people joined a massive demonstration for immigrant rights backed
by more than 100 Latin@, labor, community and religious organizations,
including the March 10 Movement and Centro Sin Fronteras. Elvira
Arellano’s son flew in from Mexico to address the crowd. Arellano and her
family became important symbols for the immigrant rights movement. She resisted
deportation for more than a year, taking sanctuary in a Chicago church until
she was arrested last August in Los Angeles and deported to Mexico.
Other speakers included Hatem Abudayyeh of the Arab American Action Network and
Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. Some 100 workers and family
members from Local 743 marched together in the largest contingent of any union.
Musical guests included Boots Riley of The Coup, Tom Morello of Rage Against
the Machine and Ben Harper.
Around 700 people marched from Brittingham Park demanding immigration reform
and immigrant rights in the streets and in the workplace. The labor movement
and the immigrant rights movement showed a united front with demands for
universal health care, an end to the war and the resignation of racist Dane
County Sheriff Dave Mahoney because of his harassment of immigrant workers and
their families. Mahoney is reporting any non-U.S. citizen, documented or not,
Events began shortly after noon with the arrival of students from local high
schools and the University of Wisconsin. Students chanting,
“¡Sí, se puede!” were enthusiastically received among the
crowd characterized by high hopes and positive energy.
Rally organizer Yvonne Geerts pointed out the challenge faced this year in
organizing around immigrant rights. “Many families are afraid to exercise
their rights due to the increase of raids and the general mood against
immigrants.” Miguel O., father of two, said, “At the end, we know
there is no other way forward.”
Photo: Melissa Kleinman
Tens of thousands of immigrant workers and supporters marched along Olympic and
Broadway in Los Angeles demanding full legalization now. This year’s
march also emphasized building unity among all pro-immigrant forces and their
allies. The two organizations that had previously held separate demonstrations
on May Day worked out differences and united with a common march and rally
The Olympic and Broadway march initiated by the March 25th Coalition was met
midway by the MIWON march that began at McArthur Park and fed into the Broadway
march. Last year the LAPD rioted at McArthur Park, clubbing and shooting
so-called non-lethal weapons at peaceful participants. This year, however, due
to the angry reaction by the community and the unity of both organizations, the
LAPD played a relatively minor role.
American Apparel workers also joined the march with a feeder march coming from
the American Apparel plant in downtown Los Angeles that was closed in order for
the workers there to participate in the march. At the rally Larry Hales of FIST
(Fight Imperialism Stand Together), Terrie Cervas of BAYAN USA, Carlos Montes
of Latinos Against the War and John Parker of the International Action Center
all spoke about the links of the struggles in the Philippines and among Black
and Brown peoples in this country to the struggles immigrants and workers in
general face today against U.S. imperialism.
WW photo: Bob McCubbin
Organized by a broad local coalition called Sí Se Puede, approximately 500
pro-immigrant activists, overwhelmingly Latin@ youth, but also including a
significant representation from area labor organizations including AFSCME and
UNITE HERE, conducted a spirited march through downtown. San Diego being a
border city swarming with Immigration and Customs Enforcement terrorists, this
loud protest in defense of immigrant workers, both with and without documents,
was highly significant.
Yet at the same time the downtown canyons were echoing with the chants of
“¡Alto a las redadas!” (Stop the roundups!), the docks on San
Diego’s harbor were uncharacteristically silent. Five hundred members of
the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 29 were taking part in
their union’s successful effort to shut down all West Coast ports to
protest the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Transnational giant Dole
Fresh Fruit Co. complained to the media that the work stoppage at the San Diego
docks cost them $316,000.
Downtown Houstonsaw nearly 400 marchers, including Víctor
Ibarra, 38, who entered the U.S. from Mexico 15 years ago and remains
undocumented although he’s tried to attain legal status for the past
seven years. “I’m here because we need immigration reform
immediately,” Ibarra said, wearing handcuffs and chains. “We need
to be able to travel and be free.”
In Washington, D.C., immigrant rights groups
and social justice organizations demanded that Prince William County, in
northern Virginia, rescind its anti-illegal immigration measure. They also
called for an end to raids and deportations and for establishment of worker
centers in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.
Based on reports from WW bureaus in Philadelphia, New York, Tucson,
Detroit, Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, San Diego,
Houston, Los Angeles and Washington.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
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