Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Workers Reestablish May Day in the United States As a Day of Struggle

Workers reestablish May Day in USA as day of struggle

By Betsey Piette
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 workers.

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.


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.

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 Square.

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.


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 Collaborative organizers.

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.


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.


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 Afghanistan.

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 immigrant workers.

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, to ICE.

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.”


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 point.

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.


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 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: ww@workers.org
Page printed from:

No comments: