Millions of people around the world took part in demonstrations on May Day. Actions included a general strike and mass march, backed by the major unions, to protest government austerity measures in Puerto Rico. This followed a huge general strike in Brazil two days earlier. The May 1 international day of working-class protest is rooted in U.S. workers’ actions in the 1880s to demand better working conditions, including the eight-hour day.
the last decade, the date has been reclaimed in the United States by
organizations standing up for the rights of immigrants and low-wage
workers. This May Day, in a broad show of solidarity, they were
joined by marchers with signs highlighting scores of burning
issues—such as affordable health care, racist police violence
against Black people, the rights of women and LGBTQ people, and
of “No ban! No wall!” and “No human being is illegal!”
alternated with “Black lives matter!” and “Workers united will
never be defeated!”
the Trump administration has done something very well, it has united
lots of communities who otherwise would not be marching together,”
Jorge-Mario Cabrera, spokesperson for the Coalition for Humane
Immigrant Rights, said on National Public Radio from Los Angeles.
1 demonstrations took place in at least U.S. 40 cities. Significant
numbers marched in the streets—as many as 30,000 in Los Angeles and
10,000 in Chicago—though the turnout in some cities was smaller
than in previous years.
many areas, workers observed a “Day Without Immigrants.”
Grassroots activists affiliated with Movimiento Cosecha and other
groups organized immigrant workers in over 50 cities, plus rural
farmworkers, to demonstrate their power as a class by refusing to
work or to shop for the day. Cosecha projected that hundreds of
thousands of workers would observe their strike call. The actions
were endorsed by “partners” in the labor movement such as SEIU,
CWA, UNITE HERE, National Nurses United, and Fight for 15.
business owners closed their doors to enable workers to attend the
protests. But without protection by the unions, some courageous
workers who stayed away from work will likely be forced to endure
hard personal consequences. Reportedly, over 100 workers were fired
following the previous Day Without Immigrants, on Feb. 16. About 20
women, former employees of EZ Industrial Solutions in Michigan, are
protesting their February dismissal in a case before the National
Labor Review Board.
May Day protests gained urgency this year due to Trump’s racist
diatribes against Latino and Muslim immigrants, and the accelerated
drive by his administration to ban, detain, and deport them. Reports
have noted, however, that many immigrants—terrorized by the
government roundups—were probably afraid to march openly in the
has pledged to deport at least 3 million immigrants— more than a
quarter of the people living in the U.S. without valid documents.
That would far surpass the already record-setting quantity of
deportations under the Obama administration. Not only “criminals”
are being deported; a quarter of the people swept up in ICE raids
since Trump took office had never been charged with a crime.
reported in late March that, according to senior immigration
officials, ICE agents have focused on conducting raids in so-called
sanctuary cities, in an attempt to compel the city governments to
comply with Trump administration policy.
largest May Day events appear to have taken place in Los Angeles,
where several marches took place. One group followed a banner
demanding, “Full Rights for Immigrants” in a march for “jobs,
education, and peace in the world.” In the largest action, a show
of “unity, resistance, and defiance,” over 120 organizations
sponsored a downtown march, from MacArthur Park to City Hall, with
rallies at both ends.
turnout of 20,000 to 30,000 was much larger than on May Day 2016,
although it was less than the 100,000 that had been widely predicted
for this year. Some organizers had even expressed confidence that the
size of the crowd would approach or exceed that of the historic May
Day 2006 event, when close to half a million marched down Wilshire
Blvd. as part of a vast national mobilization in response to the
reactionary anti-immigrant bill that had been introduced by James
Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) in the U.S. Senate. But in 2017, the fact that
the immigrant community in Los Angeles has been hard hit by raids
(two months earlier, ICE detained about 160 people) probably
contributed to the smaller than expected number of participants.
York also saw several marches. Early in the day, 500 protesters
marched through Midtown Manhattan and rallied in front of offices of
Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The Rise up New York!
coalition targeted the two banks because of their dealings with
companies that have built or manage immigrant detention centers.
Thousands more took part in separate rallies in Washington Square and
Union Square, and most of the marchers later converged in Foley
Plaza, where Mayor Bill de Blasio and a series of Democratic Party
politicians and union officials addressed them.
San Francisco, over 5000 marched up Market Street behind a
papier-maché Statue of Liberty. Oakland held several marches and
rallies, including a spirited gathering of about 3000 in the heavily
Latino Fruitvale Avenue neighborhood.
Philadelphia, several labor and immigrant groups marched through
different parts of the city, and then came together at City Hall. The
combined demonstration grew to over 2000 participants. The marchers
included members of UNITE HERE, who earlier in the day had staged a
rally at Philadelphia International Airport to protest substandard
wages and working conditions.
number of teachers also joined the march. About 1000 teachers did not
report for work that day, many of them taking part in a
non-sanctioned protest action called by the Working Educators caucus
of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT). They were calling
attention to the fact that public school teachers have been working
without a contract for nearly four years, and have not had a raise
for five years. The PFT called its own rally later in the afternoon.
that the May 1 events began with a strike and rally by retail
cleaners at a Home Depot store. The strikers are members of
Centro de Trabajadores de Lucha/Center of Workers United in Struggle.
fighting for fair wages, benefits, and the right to form a union
without fear of retaliation,” said Elizabeth Mejia Campillo, a CTUL
noon, University of Minnesota workers held a rally to kick off their
campaign for fair contracts covering 4000 clerical, technical, health
care, food service, janitorial and other employees. Later in the
afternoon, the “Resist From Day One Coalition” marched to Federal
Plaza in downtown Minneapolis.
>> The article above was written by Michael Schreiber and is reprinted from Socialist Action.