May Day — International Workers Day — is celebrated around the world, including in the United States. It is a time when workers show their strength, demand their rights and forge global solidarity. Its roots are in the struggle for the eight-hour day in 1886 in Chicago.
Some issues stood out at this year’s commemorative marches and rallies. Solidarity with im/migrants is key. It is more important than ever as Washington is carrying out a brutal war against im/migrants and has unleashed Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents to hunt down, arrest and deport them, in violation of all civil and human rights. Government agencies are viciously separating children from their parents, only to return the adults to countries from which they fled, and in many cases, losing track of the children.
Activists hailed the migrant caravan from Central America, which the Trump administration has stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border. The chief White House xenophobe has whipped up racist hostility to the families, who are mostly mothers and children, making it nearly impossible for them to enter the U.S. Demands for im/migrant rights and an end to ICE assaults and deportations rang out loudly and clearly on May Day.
Another major theme of several May Day actions was support for the growing wave of teacher and education worker walkouts spreading throughout much of the country demanding higher pay, collective bargaining rights and funding for public schools. Organized and unorganized workers and other progressive forces showed support for these courageous school workers fighting back against right-wing politicians and Big Oil.
Many May Day marches called for higher pay, workplace safety and unionization for all low-wage workers. Important social justice struggles were addressed, such as support for Black Lives Matter and opposition to racist police violence. Protesters called for an end to mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline.
Local issues were addressed, too, such as demands to end racist gentrification, evictions and utility shutoffs. Also raised was the importance of fighting for necessities and rights of people with disabilities, women and LGBTQ people.
Global solidarity was a focus, too. Marchers expressed support for the people of Puerto Rico, so arrogantly mistreated and neglected by Washington. Links were made between repression at home and abroad, including in the Philippines. Many rallies expressed solidarity with the global workforce and decried its exploitation by U.S. imperialism.
Here are highlights of actions in which Workers World Party participated.
Hundreds of workers representing various groups gathered on May 1 in East Boston to fight for migrants’ and workers’ rights.They marched to Chelsea, where they met contingents from local organizations and then jointly marched from there to Everett, where they held a rally. Signs and banners focused on the connected struggles of undocumented im/migrants and the need to maintain the government policies of temporary protected status and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). They also demanded a living wage, workplace safety and unions.
The May 1 Coalition, comprised of several labor unions and Latinx community organizations, organized and lead the march, as it has in Boston for several years. Chants called out ICE, the White House bigot in chief and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and also expressed solidarity with all workers.
Unions which had contingents in the march included the New England Carpenters Union; Steelworkers Local 8751, Boston School Bus Drivers; UNITE HERE Local 26; Boston Teachers Union; and Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445.
In Buffalo, N.Y., WWP organized a May Day rally in support of migrant struggles and in solidarity with participants in the migrant caravan, organized by Pueblos Sin Fronteras, who are currently awaiting asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The May 1 rally targeted ICE headquarters in Buffalo, drawing attention to their agents’ role in the repression and terror against undocumented im/migrants.
For over a decade, the May Day demonstrations at Union Square have been the left pole of these celebrations in New York City. The state has always targeted actions on this workers’ day, but in the last year, repression has escalated. Despite an unprecedented number of officers policing the event and more arrests in 2017, a coalition of over 60 groups gathered to commemorate May Day in historic Union Square once again.
Included were BAYAN USA, 1804 Movement for All Immigrants, WWP, Teamsters Local 808, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, Comedores Sociales, Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine, Almighty Latin Kings and Queens, the Columbia Graduate Workers Union and Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
It was an upward battle, as the NYC Parks Department refused the coalition a permit for the south side of Union Square where May Day commemorations have been held as far back as 1910. Ultimately, over 1,000 people joined together to raise struggles against white supremacy and exploitation in this city and across the country, and denounced U.S. imperialism.
Two major demonstrations took over Philadelphia on May Day. Stadium Stompers and community organizations based in North Philadelphia targeted Temple University’s racist gentrification plans to destroy the Black neighborhood adjacent to the campus. Around 200 marchers shut down traffic, calling for the end of Temple’s proposed $130 million football stadium, chanting “No Stadium! No Deal!”
Juntos, Decarcerate PA, and other organizations hosted a May Day rally entitled “Break the Cages! Fund the People!” at City Hall. Five hundred activists and community members attended. It opposed ICE’s aggressive increase in raids and deportations here and targeted the school-to-prison pipeline. Philadelphia ICE agents arrest and deport more migrants without criminal convictions than any other U.S. city.
WWP attended both actions — supporting the march against gentrification and in solidarity with migrants and Black and Brown youth facing increasing incarceration and deportation, and raising solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico facing genocidal austerity.
— Scott Michael
Community, union, student and youth activists joined together to mark May Day with a downtown march to the offices of ICE and the housing commission, police headquarters and finally to City Hall, to highlight the many issues impacting workers and the unemployed in Baltimore. Police tried to prevent the group from marching, but participants’ determination foiled their efforts.
A highlight of the first rally was a talk by Sara Benjamin, a young Cherry Hill teacher, who displayed a homemade piece of artwork with a message from her students for May Day.
At the end of the march, the group unfurled a special banner with a message to the people of Puerto Rico — especially to the striking teachers — proclaiming Baltimore’s support for them and demanding reparations for the island, so badly damaged by hurricanes, then abused by Washington.
The May Day March was sponsored by the Peoples Power Assembly, Women and Oppressed Genders Fightback Network; Youth Against War & Racism; BMORE; Hopkins Tzedek; WWP; Students for a Democratic Society/Johns Hopkins University; Baltimore Bus Riders Union; Baltimore city and county Green Party; and Greater Baltimore Democratic Socialists of America.
—WW Baltimore bureau
WWP’s D.C. branch joined in the DC May Day Festival in Washington, D.C., put on by groups like Democracy at Work, DSA, Socialist Alternative, Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist Party of DC. They set up a table with great placards, sign-up sheets, newspapers and snacks. The group got a lot of sign-ups and was very well-received.
Local grassroots organizations in Durham, N.C., including the Durham Worker’s Assembly, WWP Durham branch, Black Youth Project 100, DSA, IWW, United Electrical Workers Local 150, Durham Beyond Policing and Comité Popular Somos Raleigh, gathered at the old Durham police station. They demanded a $15 hourly wage and unionization — and an end to ICE raids and deportations and police brutality.
The crowd of 200 marched to the jail downtown. Across the street, the Durham Performing Arts Center held a musical about the service industry. Speakers told confused ticket holders waiting in line what real workers’ struggles look like. Marchers then returned to the streets and went to a MacDonald’s restaurant downtown and drew the connections between the bosses, police and jails.
—Workers World Durham bureau
Rallies and a march took place in the Latinx community in Detroit’s southwest side. Participants gathered at Clark Park for the first rally and then marched through the neighborhood in support of im/migrant rights, civil rights, self-determination for oppressed peoples, Black and Brown unity, rights for disabled people, workers’ struggles for a living wage and other issues.
The event concluded at Clark Park with a closing rally calling for a halt to all water shut-offs, home foreclosures and evictions. Speakers expressed solidarity with workers and oppressed peoples worldwide. May Day 2018 was organized by a broad coalition of forces, including the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Michigan United, the Poor Peoples’ Campaign, Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association and numerous other groups.
— Abayomi Azikiwe
In Chicago, hundreds gathered at Haymarket Square, site of the Haymarket affair, when police killed workers fighting for an 8-hour workday in 1886. Speakers from labor unions, im/migrants’ rights groups, socialist organizations and faith-based leaders demanded a living wage for all workers, an end to racist deportations and a stop to police murders of people of color.
Everyone marched to Chicago’s Federal Building, the operations base for ICE. At the rally there, speakers denounced the agency’s role in splitting up families, terrorizing communities and repressing im/migrant workers. Immediately after the rally, religious leaders from predominantly im/migrant communities began the first leg of a planned procession on foot from Chicago to Washington, D.C., to protest the repeal of DACA and deportation policies.
In the Midwest, WWP had a robust presence this year, with members promoting and in solidarity with events called by mass organizations, such as May Day in Waukesha, Wis. Hosted by Youth Empowered in the Struggle and Voces de la Frontera, this was a massive protest of the local sheriff’s plan to have his deputies start detaining im/migrants for ICE in June.
On May Day, 500 people marched through the heart of Minneapolis to repudiate the racist imperialist system of the U.S. A coalition of groups attended, which included Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, IWW and union locals. The newly formed WWP Twin Cities branch carried a banner stressing that, despite the borders that cause geographical separation, the workers’ struggle connects across the world. Onlookers responded enthusiastically to protest slogans as the marchers’ calls of “No Trump! No KKK! No Racist USA!” echoed down the avenues.
—WW Twin Cities bureau
May Day in Tucson, Ariz., was dedicated to #RedForEd. Thousands of people gathered in downtown’s Armory Park for a rally to demand increased funding for education. Speakers condemned the school-to-prison pipeline, state funding of prisons and the outrageous sums spent on militarizing the border. They also connected the teachers’ struggle to the many other struggles for justice, including Black Lives Matter and supporting im/migrants against hostile federal and state agencies and policies.
One speaker noted that any disruption caused to students by the teacher walkout is nothing compared to the disruption to them caused by the ever-present terror of ICE and Border Patrol agents who cruise Tucson streets and daily tear families apart. The rally was followed by a spirited march through the streets of downtown Tucson.
Hundreds rallied and marched on May Day at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, and then marched to City Hall. Unión del Barrio and anti-war and social justice organizations initiated the demonstration. The majority of those attending came from the city’s large im/migrant population.
For a time, participants thought that WWP organizer and Brazilian immigrant, Jefferson Azevedo, had been arrested. Security forces from Unión del Barrio, California for Progress and WWP surrounded a Trump supporter who was talking to police and trying to get onto the stage truck. The reactionary attacked a woman member of California for Progress and Azevedo, whom the police handcuffed.
Demonstrators surrounded Azevedo. Chants of “Let him go!” resounded from the crowd and stage to the phalanx of cops, some of whom were hanging onto him. The cops finally removed the handcuffs, but wouldn’t release Azevedo. Organizers moved their truck across Wilshire Boulevard, one of the busiest traffic corridors in the U.S., and blocked this kidnapping. Within five minutes, Azevedo was freed, and the march took to the streets all the way to City Hall for a great rally.
On May Day in San Diego, 500 people gathered at historic Chicano Park in the Barrio Logan neighborhood for an evening rally. Members of organizations and other individuals gathered around the famous Aztec kiosk to listen to teachers, union organizers and other workers speak about the history and importance of May Day, and the wave of teachers’ strikes that has hit the country. Chants of “¡Sí, se puede!” and “Shut it down!” rang out throughout the community between speeches, led by Unión Del Barrio, initiator of the rally and march.
San Diego’s Azteca dancers performed and then led everyone in a march through the residential areas of Barrio Logan and Sherman Heights. At the end of the march, Unión Del Barrio offered more time for speakers, after which the program ended with a performance by Ballet Folklórico and music.
Some participating organizations were WWP San Diego, the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Committee Against Police Brutality, San Diego Educators Association, Party for Socialism and Liberation, IWW, DSA, Democratic Autonomy Federation, Redneck Revolt, United Domestic Workers of America, UNITE HERE Local 30, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
—Rahui Suré Saldivar-Soto
In a day highlighted by the unity of labor and im/migrant communities, over 1,000 people demanded “No Ban! No Raids! No Wall! Sanctuary for All!” “Stop Police Repression!” and “Workers Rights for All!” Actions began at the Port of Oakland, in California, where ILWU Local 10 held an eight-hour port shutdown. Their members and community supporters rallied at the Matson Terminal, then marched to Little Bobby Hutton Park.
Speakers included actor Danny Glover; Oakland mayoral candidate Cat Brooks, Anti Police-Terror Project; Sequita Thompson, grandmother of Stephon Clark, killed by police; Yolanda Banks Reed, mother of Shaleem Tindle, slain by police and Sagnicthe Salazar of the Oakland Sin Fronteras im/migrant rights May Day coalition. Producer Ryan Coogler’s video message was played.
Clarence Thomas, ILWU Local 10 retiree, chanted: “Immigrant rights are workers’ rights and workers’ rights are immigrant rights!”
The Oakland Sin Fronteras rally and march began at Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland. Large contingents from Bay Area im/migrant communities carried colorful banners showing their diversity. The coalition’s unity statement said: “International Workers Day is a time to uplift the struggles, honor the sacrifices, and celebrate the triumphs of im/migrants and workers across the world. As we stand on Ohlone Indigenous land … we march in solidarity with working people across all borders fighting against economic and social inequality.
“With a Trump administration in power, a rising fascist tendency, and growing … oppression of people everywhere, this May Day we march in the spirit of ‘No Ban! No Raids! No Wall! Sanctuary for All!’ from state violence and capitalist exploitation and toward liberation and self-determination.”
— Terri Kay
The Portland, Ore., WWP branch — as part of the Portland May Day Coalition — participated in a May Day celebration that brought together many left groups for a community focused event. Over 200 people turned out at Lents Park in the city’s southeast area.
Comrades from the Philippines, representing groups including BAYAN, ICHRP-US and Gabriela, attended, as well as members of the Stop The Killings speaking tour 2018. The latter group is protesting the brutal Duterte regime in the Philippines. Members of Indigenous and im/migrant rights groups spoke and performed dances and songs. Free food was distributed to participants. WWP members set up a booth, distributed literature, talked to many people about the Party and its important work and formed closer ties with friendly organizations in the Portland area.