Workers across the United States turned out in mass numbers in cities large and small on International Workers’ Day to march and rally for workers’ and immigrants’ rights. Inclement weather in many cities and fear of swine flu was not enough to keep workers off the streets. This year’s May Day occurred in the midst of a deepening global economic crisis that has fueled widespread anger against the banks and government bailouts.
FIST photo: Mike Martinez
In Miami, labor and community organizations from across the state marched down Biscayne Boulevard. Key participants included the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the local AFL-CIO and a newly formed union of Miami taxicab drivers.
Marchers called for a living wage, amnesty for all undocumented workers, and an end to the bank bailouts. Hundreds marched through downtown Miami and drew parallels between the current economic crisis and the Great Depression as they called for relief programs for poor and working people.
Mike Martinez, a key organizer with the Miami May Day Alliance, said, “The fact that there was a march on May Day in Miami is a big victory in itself. That there were hundreds of people, including labor, immigrant rights and anti-war groups joining forces speaks volumes to the political changes taking place in Miami.”
WW photo: Liz Green
In Boston, “Legalization yes, deportation no!” rang out through the streets of the East Boston, Chelsea and Everett communities as 2,000 immigrants and other workers marched and rallied. The May 1st Coalition of Chelsea, East Boston and Everett; Chelsea Collaborative; the East Boston Ecumenical Community Council; and La Comunidad, Inc. sponsored the march.
The Boston School Bus Drivers USW Local 8751, the Boston May Day Coalition and dozens of other organizations endorsed the action. The Boston Bail Out the People Movement had a strong contingent, including the Women’s Fightback Network, New England Human Rights for Haiti, the bus drivers and the youth group Fight Imperialism, Stand Together.
A student rally at Harvard supported legislation that would provide conditional permanent resident status to undocumented students. Hundreds of flyers were distributed for a May 14 community summit at Roxbury Community College to defend equal quality education, which is currently under attack in Boston.
WW photo: Berta Joubert-Ceci
In Los Angeles, more than 13,000 people came out on May Day to share the message of justice for immigrants. The Multi-ethnic Immigrant Worker Organizing Network and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor marched from Echo Park to downtown Los Angeles. The Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, the Southern California Immigration Coalition and the March 25th Coalition also held marches.
Marchers brought demands for full immigrant rights, passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, and an end to raids, deportations and abusive guest worker programs. The various May Day organizers openly challenged the corporate media’s portrayal of them as divided. The March 25th Coalition and the Southern California Immigration Coalition participated in a unity press conference.
More than 1,500 marched in San Francisco under the slogan “Workers Without Borders, United in Struggle,” despite steady rain and media-generated fears of the swine flu. The May Day coalition of immigrant, labor, and community activists rallied in Dolores Park in the working-class Latino/a Mission District before marching down Market Street to the Civic Center Plaza and ending with a rally at City Hall.
Marchers included political and community organizations like the San Francisco Day Laborers, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, the Gray Panthers and Transgenders March for Immigrant Rights. The LGBT immigrant rights organization Out 4 Immigration carried banners that read “Stop Deporting Our Partners!” The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 carried a stunning banner calling for workers’ solidarity to stop repressive government attacks on immigrant workers.
WW photo: Bob McCubbin
In San Diego, an afternoon rally at City College drew over 500 pro-immigrant supporters, including community groups, youth and students representing area MEChA [Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán] chapters and the Filipino groups AnakBayan and GABRIELA. A high point of the rally was the appearance onstage of a contingent of day laborers from Jornaleros of San Diego County with their banners. A militant march to Chicano Park, a historically important parcel of land seized by the community decades ago, followed. Members and friends of the San Diego International Action Center carried a banner which read, “¡La Batalla de los Obreros No Tiene Fronteras! No Borders in the Workers’ Struggle!” A concluding rally organized by the Raza Rights Coalition was held in the park. An evening May Day event organized by the San Diego Mumia Coalition at the World Beat Center featured a new film on Mumia Abu-Jamal, bands and poetry.
At least 1,000 marched in San Jose. Hundreds marched in Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, Hayward, Santa Rosa, Napa, and Martinez.
In Tucson, Ariz., nearly 2,000 people rallied and marched. Immigrant rights activist Isabel Garcia opened the rally with a brief history of May Day, which she called a day for solidarity between workers, Indigenous people, youth and immigrants. She gave special recognition to immigrant workers for bringing May Day back in the U.S.
Student leaders from Movimiento spoke of their struggle against capitalism, racism, sexism, anti-LGBT bigotry and other injustices. The young speakers raised militant demands for removal of the border wall and for full funding for education and jobs programs.
Other speakers included workers from the local Food City grocery store chain who are fighting for union recognition. Steelworkers and other union representatives called on Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. Tucson Unified School District teachers and University of Arizona professors spoke about budget cuts that are eliminating jobs and degrading the quality of education.
WW photo: Alan Pollock
The Indigenous dance group, Danza Mexica Cuauhtémoc, led the crowd on a spirited, chant-filled post-rally march through the streets of Tucson.
Detroit protestors called for full legalization of all undocumented workers, an end to ICE raids, deportations and racial profiling by law enforcement, and equal pay and protection for documented and undocumented immigrant workers.
As many as 15,000 turned out for the May Day event organized by Latinos Unidos and supported by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice. The two-hour march began at Patton Park on the city’s southwest side and proceeded along Vernor Avenue before ending at Clark Park. Observers lined the streets and joined in the march. The demonstrators were primarily young workers and students.
Photo: Raleigh FIST
Abayomi Azikiwe of MECAWI and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Ignacio Meneses and Rosendo Delgado of Latinos Unidos, Michigan State Representative Coleman Young II, and representatives from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee addressed the concluding rally at Clark Park.
Three thousand protestors marched to the federal building for workers’ rights and legalization of undocumented workers in a Chicago action initiated by the March 10 Committee. March organizers defied last-minute attempts by the City Council to use swine-flu fears as a pretext to force organizers to cancel the march. Immigrant rights groups and labor organizations such as SEIU and UNITE supported the march.
The Rochester Alliance for Immigrant Rights organized a May Day march and rally in Rochester, N.Y., demanding an end to ICE raids and forced separation of immigrant families. A speaker from the Buffalo International Action Center laid the blame for the recent swine-flu pandemic on NAFTA and corporate greed.
Thousands marched through downtown Seattle to demand an end to Gestapo-style raids, deportations and detentions. The Latino/a-led march was called by El Comité Pro-Reforma Migratoria y Justicia Social and had strong contingents from Asian, labor and community groups.
In Durham, N.C., mostly Latino/a protestors rallied against racial profiling, raids, detentions and deportations in an event organized by El Kilombo. Thousands more turned out across the U.S. in cities like Portland, Ore.; Philadelphia; and Charlotte, N.C.
Abayomi Azikiwe, Ellie Dorritie, Kris Hamel, Joan Marquardt, Mike Martinez, Jim McMahan, Frank Neisser, John Parker, Dante Strobino, Paul Teitelbaum and Bob McCubbin contributed to this article.