May Day 2013 - National Immigrant Workers Rights March!

May Day 2013 Reports from Across the Country (PDF Document)

Detroit, MI

Labor, immigration activists hold May Day rallies

DETROIT - Hundreds of people have held May Day rallies in Detroit and Grand Rapids, calling for immigration law changes and other labor condition improvements on the international workers holiday.

Ismael Duran attends a rally to commemorate the legacy of May Day and support immigration reform in Detroit, Wednesday May 1, 2013. Immigrants and activists called for comprehensive immigration reform _ an issue once again on the front burner politically after being virtually ignored in Obama's first term. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

About 200 community, labor and immigration activists gathered Wednesday in a Detroit park and heard speakers call on Washington lawmakers to work quickly to enact a federal overhaul of the immigration system.

The organizers include United Auto Workers and AFL-CIO locals and the immigration rights coalition Michigan United. Backers say combining the groups' interests is important to the effort of strengthening the rights of all workers.

A march in Grand Rapids has included protesters with signs calling for an end to deportations and the passage of U.S. immigration law changes. About 50 labor supporters have rallied in Flint.

San Diego, CA

Hundreds March on Mayday in San Diego

By: Nadin Abbott

May 1, 2013 (San Diego)- Hundreds of Union Members and supporters came out today to the streets of San Diego to march for both labor right and immigrant rights. Pedro Rios of the Friends Committee (from El Cajon) said that "May Day is a day we are reclaiming for our community."

Marches started in 2006 "when there were macro demonstrations around the country," including San Diego. At the national level, this is about Immigrant Rights, which are connected to labor rights. May Day also celebrates the events of the Haymarket on May 1st, 1886 when a bomb went off at the Haymarket in Chicago, killing police officers and strikers alike. Labor leaders, immigrants themselves, were hauled before the court and were found guilty of setting this bomb off. They received the death penalty and ironically became a symbol for workers around the world. This is why May Day is International Labor day.

Around the world this is a holiday. In Mexico, where I grew up, the eight martyrs were remembered, but in the United States May Day was just another day. We have lost this day. So now, that we are seeing it recovered, it is striking. You might ask why? The workers were demanding a right most Americans workers take for granted. the eight hour work day.

So I asked Rios about this revival. As he put it, the unions that have been hit the worst with e-verify and other attacks on immigrants among them the Janitors Union and UNITE here, the hotel workers, are now aware of May Day. He also said that the goal was to get about five hundred people to come. I would say they met the goal, and perhaps more than five hundred people joined the march.

Rios also said that due to the support of the Labor Council and Lorena Gonzales, the compromise to celebrate the day is regional.

I asked him about expanding to the East County, where we have many workers in the service industry, as well as poverty levels that are unequal. He said that there are now alliances emerging, for instance with the Human Rights Coalition from El Cajon. Rios added that they were working to "create connections with communities that want to join the struggle for labor rights."

Some of the Unions present were UNITE here, UFCW Local 135, EIU Healthcare, UDW (They are home care providers), Occupy San Diego, which while not a Union, it's still very active, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). AFSCME was also present en force.

Geneve Aguilar of the Janitors Union (that like Hotel Workers are facing e-verify in order to suppress labor organizing, and face 500 dismissals soon), simply said, "enough of criminalizing the worker."

She introduced Rosa Lopez, a member of the Union, local 19877 of the SEIU. This local represents workers at the Airport, among other places, there they clean so you can have a good experience. She said that she "came to the United States over twenty years ago." She came to make a life, and give a better future to her children.

Then she mentioned her comrades, over five hundred janitors, "who came to this country to work, not to be separated from their families," or to lose their ability to make a living. She added, "we are going to work for the migratory reform. It's not just for us, but others who have been affected by this situation." She closed by reminding people that "they might take our jobs away, but not our dignity."

Rios reminded people that "It's become a day for immigrants to assert their rights." In an ironic twist of history, and Santayana was right, "those who forget history are bound to repeat it." The workers at the Haymarket were immigrants, asserting their rights, though the strike and other methods. Here we are, over a hundred years later, and immigrants still have to assert their rights.

"We have seen too much when workers are denied jobs" whether it is the San Diego Mission Valley Hilton, or the five hundred Janitors that are about to lose their jobs. "All of us will be better off when eleven million come out from the shadows."

Not stated by Rios, but one of the expected effects of these millions coming out of the shadows will be an upward wage pressure, as these workers will not be so easily abused, nor paid less because the threat of calling the Migra will be gone.

Herman Ramirez, an organizer for the United Food Workers told us that Northgate, a small supermarket, intends to also use E-Verify to solve their Union problem. Later on the march went in front of the supermarket, near the end of the march. He also added that "the teacher that is protesting, is also teaching." He then pointed out that there was a lack of teachers this year for the march, and that Pink Slips should have none to do with their presence and solidarity with the rest of the working class.

He added that people are divided starting in school. Some kids will go to college, while others to the trades. But what we all need "is work with dignity."

Virginia (One of the hunger strikers who has lost her job since) was the last to speak. She told us that she is originally from the State of Veracruz in Mexico. She came to this country ten years ago looking for work. (Many of the people living in the country side in Mexico have abandoned the fields and come to the US since NAFTA)

She added that she has sent her three kids to college. She started work at the Mission Valley Hilton two years ago, where "she had to find time to clean sixteen rooms in eight hours." It is very physical work. When word of a Union organizing effort came, she immediately joined the struggle. This was led by UNITE Here Local 30. "We deserve a descent pay."

In March the hotel was sold, and on the First of March there was civil disobedience leading to twenty arrests. In the end the company said that they would rehire all one hundred and ten workers, but go through E-Verity. The workers tried the five day hunger strike in April, and they were still fired.

"We want a migratory reform to live in peace, but we also want the Union so we can have dignified work, with respect, and benefits. And we need to lose the fear and organize."

Then she addressed the President of the United States, in a formula more common in Mexico, "Citizen President of the Republic, we ask for dignified work, we are important to the nation.

Then the march started. It was a long march, taking us downtown, to the Hotels near the Convention Center, in front of the center itself, up the Gaslamp and into the Golden Hills area of San Diego. It was a good, hilly climb, and throughout they kept themselves up, with chants. Some old ones from Occupy were there, "Tell me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like," Or "We are the 99%"

There were others that were very much labor related, or immigrant rights related. "The Worker's Struggle does not have borders," "without papers, without fear," and my personal favorite, "up with the Union, down with exploitation."

The chants were done in both English and Spanish, and leafiest were given to passers by. At one point the marchers were confronted by one person, who screamed at them to "go back to Mexico." This gentleman did not do anything more than just scream epithets and got no rise from the marchers. One of the march Marshals positioned himself between the marchers and the person, and it never escalated.

When the workers marched by Northgate, they screamed, "Northgate listen, we are in the struggle."

At the end, Laura Reyes, General Secretary of the United Domestic Workers International and leader of AFSCME took to the stage. "We all know these are challenging times. We have to pull together so we can defeat every obstacle they put in front of us." She also reminded those listening that "too many employers depend on an endless supply of cheap labor."

Reyes reminded people that the Unions have power, and with that comes responsibility, "to seek unjust labor conditions, not just for the immigrant but for every worker."

She then addressed the dreamers, many of them were in the crowd. "The dreamers want to serve this country, the one they call home." Immigration reform "is about freedom, respect and dignity."

Workers have a right to speak while on the job, an essential freedom that many want to take away from workers. "This is our moment. This is our challenge, and make no mistake, San Diego we have seized this moment."

Reyes later told me that AFSCME will recognize immigrants in this country.

To put a little context on this, until a few years ago Organized Labor saw the immigrant community as a threat. But the AFL-CIO did split into the Federation and the United For Change Coalition. The latter sees immigrants, in the service industries, as a natural growth area for the Unions. Why? It's difficult to export the job of a hotel worker, while the Auto Workers of America face their jobs being sent abroad.

Labor has yet to fully face the reality of Globalization. But it does look to this observer, that Labor is starting to. During the march itself I talked about this with Aguilar, and how these divisions will have to be overcome. But, it does look that we might be seeing the renewal of Labor, or at least on this May Day, I sure hope so.


Raleigh, NC

May Day in N. Carolina: 5 students arrested fighting for worker rights

NC Student Power Union

Raleigh, N.C. - On May Day, the NC Student Power Union mobilized more than 350 students from 10 colleges from all around North Carolina to participate in a demonstration against the Legislature's regressive agenda.

Students began their day with a rally at the North Carolina State University Bell Tower and then marched to the Civitas Institute, a far-right think tank funded by multimillionaire and deputy state budget director, Art Pope. The demonstration raised opposition to the avalanche of backwards policies being advanced by legislators. They joined a broader coalition of workers, immigrant rights groups and many other community organizations for a march from Moore Square Park to the North Carolina Legislature.

When the march arrived at Jones Street, students, young people and others took over the street, and five sat down with a banner that read, "We Demand a Future! Stop budget cuts! Stop racist voter laws! Stop attacks on workers!"

During the street occupation, which lasted for nearly an hour, leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, the North Carolina NAACP, the AFL-CIO and the Southern Workers Assembly, among others, delivered messages of support and solidarity as students spoke out against the attacks.

Demonstrators then attempted to bring their demands for justice into the Legislature and five were arrested - Jessica Injejikian from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Tristan Munchel and Dhruv Pathak from UNC Greensboro, and Zaina Alsous and Carissa Morrison from UNC Chapel Hill. All five were charged with disorderly conduct, and Morrison and Pathak were additionally charged with misdemeanor assault on a government official.

"We stand behind these five students who took a bold and powerful action today and put their bodies on the line to stop the attacks on the people of North Carolina," said Juan Miranda, a student at UNCG. "Our hope is that many others are inspired to join the fightback against these forces from destroying our state and taking us backwards. We will fight these charges to the end. The fact that these students were arrested simply for peacefully trying to enter and bring their demands into the 'People's House' is absurd, and the additional charges that Morrison and Pathak received are entirely baseless."

In a statement, Pathak explained why he participated in civil disobedience: "Education should be affordable and accessible to all students. The right-wing Legislature and current budget proposal will make it harder for students to get into school and stay in school. My family struggles with finances every day and has trouble making ends meet. The last thing I need is a multimillionaire writing the state budget who wants to take away my financial aid. … That's why I took this action today."

Students have vowed that they will be back to continue demonstrations throughout the summer with other organizations, and as long as is needed.

New Heaven, CT

700 Rally For Rights

By: Allan Appel - New Heaven Independent

Labor Leader Bob Proto called it a "crime" that Congress has left immigration reform and a pathway to good jobs so broken for so long for so many. And local student Cinthia Perez declared "I am Mexican, undocumented, unapologetic, and unafraid."

Theirs were two among 20 passionate voices addressing a crowd of more than 700 who rallied and marched for labor and immigrant rights on a picture-perfect May Day late afternoon on the New Haven Green.

Montpelier, VT

Vt. activists rally at Statehouse on May Day

By: WILSON RING - Associated Press

More than 1,000 activists highlighted their visions of social justice Wednesday at a May Day march through the city and rally on the Statehouse lawn that featured lived music, speeches and lots of red T-shirts.

Speakers at the event labeled Put People First promoted the rights of immigrant farmworkers, the need for universal access to health care and other topics.

Traditionally, May 1 is celebrated internationally as the day of the worker.

"We are trying to build the community we would all like to live in, where peoples' needs are all being met, whether that be housing, whether that be food, access to transportation," said Sandra Schlosser, a volunteer with the Vermont Workers Center who helped organize the rally.

Organizers also called on Vermont legislators, who met inside the Statehouse while people rallied on the lawn, to take action on various issues.

The Workers Center asked that lawmakers pass a budget that "meets the needs of the people." Some of their criticisms of the Legislature include proposals to cap the welfare-to-work program, inadequate citizen participation in the state budget process and what they see as a too-slow process to implement the first-in-the-nation single-payer health care system.

Schlosser recognized that Vermont is far ahead of many states on social issues but said residents need to support similar efforts elsewhere.

"Even though Vermont probably is leading the way in a lot of those areas it's something that isn't just happening here, it's something that's happening all over the United States. And it is really exciting," she said.

About 1,500 people attended the rally, Schlosser estimated. The Montpelier police did not have an independent estimate of the crowd size.

Others at the rally included Alberto Madrigal, 22, from Tabasco, Mexico, who has been working on a Vermont dairy farm for the past 18 months.

He spoke in favor of an effort by a group called Migrant Justice to legalize driver's licenses for farmworkers in the country illegally. An estimated 1,500 immigrants work on Vermont's dairy farms.

"I'm involved with Migrant Justice to fight for my rights and to reclaim our dignity as human beings that we are," he said. "We are struggling for our licenses for a better day for us and for you."

Denver, CO

About 200 rally for immigration reform in Denver

ALEXANDRA TILSLEY - Associated Press

About 200 people turned out in Denver to rally for immigration reform despite some wet spring snow.

The rally kicked off Wednesday morning at the state Capitol, and featured speeches from advocacy and labor group leaders and state legislators, including Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, Rep. Crisanta Duran and Rep. Joe Salazar.

As the group marched southwest from the Capitol, drivers passing by honked and waved in support.

Though the snow might have kept some people away - organizers said the crowd was definitely smaller than last year's - the group that marched was undeterred by the conditions. Marchers chanted the whole way, shouting refrains like, "The people, united, will never be divided."

"I know the Latino people do it whether it's thunderstorms or snow or anything," said Claudia Esquivel of Boulder, who spoke at the rally at Sunken Garden Park after the march. "Nothing can stop us."

Naykary Silva, a 26-year-old mother from Mexico who is in the country illegally, said she marched Wednesday because she has a 3-year-old son with autism who needs health care, and she wants to be part of the movement working to make that a possibility. The wintry weather, she said, never made her doubt her decision to march.

"If you want to do something, you do it no matter what," Silva said. "There's still more work to do."

Most attendees seemed to agree that there is still progress to be made, though most also were pleased that the Colorado Legislature this spring passed a bill allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.

Esquivel told the crowd at Sunken Garden Park, nicknamed Citizenship Park for the day, that they must still push for change.

"We need to remind our senators we voted for them, and they need to work for us," Esquivel said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The biggest change she, and most others, wants to see is a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally.

"I would like the rest of our people to become residents," said Esquivel, who is a citizen. "I don't want families to be separated, don't want people to be living in fear."

Carrying a Mexican flag as he marched, Antonio Moreno said although he is a citizen, he thinks it's important to fight for the rights of other members of the Latino community.

"I have solidarity with them," Moreno said. "We are all one people, and we all should have civil rights."

Tens of thousands of people are expected to rally in dozens of cities in what has become an annual cry for easing the nation's immigration laws.

The May Day rallies carry a special sense of urgency this year, two weeks after a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would bring many of the estimated 11 million living in the U.S. illegally out of the shadows. One Denver participant carried a sign that read "11 million out of the shadows (equals) $1.5 billion into the economy."

San Antonio, TX

Activists march downtown for immigration reform

By Michelle Casady - San Antonio Express-News

What started as a group of about 50 gathered in Milam Square Park on Wednesday afternoon swelled to nearly 200 people, marching through downtown streets and across Alamo Plaza, carrying flags and signs in support of immigration reform.

"Obama, escucha! Estamos en la lucha!" - which means roughly, "Obama, listen, we are in the fight!" - was chanted repeatedly, and the marchers' signs were painted with messages demanding better wages and the end of deportations that split up families.

The mile-and-a-half march, organized by the National Immigrant Solidarity Network, ended at the Southwest Workers Union offices at 1416 E. Commerce St. and coincided with International Workers' Day, also known as May Day.

Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett made an appearance at the beginning of the rally and used a megaphone to tell the crowd he considered himself an ally in the cause.

"This year, this is our best chance at getting comprehensive reform passed," he told the marchers before encouraging them to continue fighting for change.

Rita Urguijo-Ruiz, an assistant professor at Trinity University who became a citizen in January but has lived in the U.S. since she was 16, marched Wednesday mainly in support of "more humane immigration laws," she said.

"Families are suffering because of these laws that are completely irrational, given that immigrants give so much to this country," she said. "I had the greatest opportunity to come here, become documented and get a Ph.D. to serve my community ... And others want that, too."


May Day 2013 Report Page 1 | Page 2


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