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Broad support for united May Day in New York City starting at Union Square

Published May 1, 2011 7:02 AM

Clarence Thomas of ILWU Local 10 speaking
at May Day news conference in New York's
Union Square.
WW photo: John Catalinotto

Union leaders from the center of the struggles in Wisconsin and California spoke at a news conference April 29 in New York’s Union Square to help build for what they hope will be a massive May Day march this year.

Among the speakers were Gilbert Johnson, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 82 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and also a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the A. Philip Randolph Institute; and Clarence Thomas, a leader of the Million Worker March and of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, whose workers held a one-day work stoppage April 4 in the Oakland, Calif., and San Francisco docks in solidarity with the Wisconsin struggle.

The two unionists are among those progressive organizers who stand in solidarity with immigrant workers struggling for their rights. The most active sections of the traditional union movement have begun fighting back against a relentless attack from Wall Street, the banks and their representatives in government.

Immigrants are fighting back against a wave of deportations of 1 million workers, said Teresa Gutierrez of the New York May 1st Coalition. These movements are coming together in solidarity in the New York area, Gutierrez stated, representing a leap forward.

Johnson, besides representing his union, advises the Students for a Democratic Society chapter at UW-Milwaukee, which is currently carrying on an occupation to save the theater department at the university. Johnson said he would miss participating in the May Day action in Milwaukee, but was pleased to be bringing word of Wisconsin’s struggle to New York and vice versa.

May Day was first revived in the United States, said Thomas, when the Million Worker March held an action in Union Square in 2005 and marched to the East Side to protest hospital closings. The following year, May Day came back with a bang when millions of immigrants participated in massive actions around the country that amounted to a general strike of a section of the working class.

Others at the press conference included Chris Silvera of Teamsters Local 808; Larry Holmes of the Bail Out the People Movement; Sara Flounders of the United National Anti-war Coalition; Larry Hales of the CUNY Mobilization Network, who spoke of an upcoming march on May 12 from City Hall to Wall Street against budget cuts; representative of the day laborers Roberto Meneses; Hector Castillo of Bronx Community Coalitions United; and Tony Murphy, who introduced the conference.