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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 72/No. 20      May 19, 2008

(lead article)
May Day actions across the U.S.
demand: Legalize all immigrants!
Militant/Martha Contreras
Contingent of workers from Wheatland Tube, a Chicago factory, march in May Day rally there. They are fighting for reinstatement of workers fired for receiving Social Security “no-match” letters.

For the third year running, in cities and towns across the United States, thousands of workers—in their majority immigrants—took to the streets to join actions on May 1. The central demand of these marches was legalization for the more than 12 million workers in the United States without papers.

“Marchers for immigrant rights revive spirit of May Day,” read the headline in the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the rally of at least 1,500 in that Northern California city. “Their fledgling immigrant-rights movement seems to be taking hold and more—they just may bring May Day back from oblivion.”

More than 60,000 participated in May Day marches and rallies in more than 60 U.S. towns and cities. The largest actions were in Chicago and Los Angeles, each of which drew about 15,000 people.

In California, demonstrations were held in 16 cities, and in Texas, at least seven. In the Northwest, rallies of more than 1,000 were held in Seattle and in Salem, Oregon. Some 800 people, many of them farm workers, rallied in Washington State’s Yakima Valley.

May Day originated in the United States as part of the struggle in the 1880s to win the eight-hour work day. Celebrated as International Workers Day in many parts of the world, it is being reclaimed in the United States as a day of workers’ struggle as part of the battle for legalization of undocumented immigrants.

In Georgia, rallies took place in Atlanta and in the western town of Carrollton, where 60 people took the day off to join the action.

“My husband works hard like any other American and he should have the same rights,” Sharon Acevedo told the Militant at the demonstration in Carrollton.

“Sometimes different people showed up” at planning meetings said Ellie Garcia, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from Georgia. Her party was one of the organizations initiating the march. “One week two bakery workers came, another week a poultry worker came. A student from the University of West Georgia and a high school student who showed up with her parents the week before the rally” were among others who helped plan the action.

In New York City some 1,600 marched from Union Square Park to Foley Square, near City Hall. Feeder marches of a couple hundred each came across the Brooklyn Bridge and from Chinatown.

“I don’t know much about immigrant rights, but I’m learning,” said Jasmine McLaughlin, a student at John Jay High School in Manhattan. She and seven other students joined the action after taking part in a school walkout that day to protest school budget cuts and the acquittal of the cops who killed Sean Bell.

“They try to divide Blacks and Latinos but immigrants aren’t the problem,” Diane Goines, a participant in the march who is Black, told the Militant. “If they weren’t here Blacks would still face discrimination, unemployment, and high incarceration rates. When anyone is harassed we all suffer.”

Several clusters of construction workers from the area surrounding Union Square joined the rally in the course of the afternoon. In the first four months of this year 13 construction workers have been killed on the job in New York.

Ramón Fernández, a window installer in Manhattan, said the boss pressures him to speed up his work. “He asked me, ‘Don’t you care about your family?’ I told him, ‘Yes! But all you care about is your profits.’”

Many May Day actions were intertwined with union struggles.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, Miguel Gutiérrez, a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789, spoke at the rally. That local represents workers at Dakota Premium Foods, a slaughterhouse in South St. Paul where workers are fighting for a contract after defeating an effort by the bosses to decertify the union in January.

“We are conducting a struggle for all workers—Black, white, Latino, Asian, all workers,” he told the crowd. “The bosses are superexploiting the immigrant workers and they use the laws denying them their rights to do this. Our struggle at Dakota Premium Foods shows that we workers are a force.”

Also speaking was Angel Cacique, one of 15 workers fired by D’Amico Restaurant after receiving Social Security “no-match” letters. The workers have been picketing the restaurant during peak business hours demanding to be reinstated.

In San Diego, laundry workers from the Prudential Overall Supply plant in Vista, California, who won a union election April 25, marched with a banner that read, “Our victory is your victory.”

Holding banners saying “Secure our borders”; “Repeal NAFTA before our country is gone”; and other racist and anti-immigrant messages, small groups of rightists organized counterprotests in several cities. One of the larger right-wing actions took place in Santa Rosa, California, where a couple dozen members of a group called the Golden Gate Minutemen rallied. In New York City, where less than a dozen turned out, a few attempted to directly challenge the speakers before being escorted out.

Contributing to this article were Loretta Van Pelt from Carrollton, Georgia; Maura DeLuca from New York; Tom Fiske from St. Paul, Minnesota; Rick Trujillo from San Diego; and Lea Sherman from San Francisco.
Related articles:
15,000 march in Chicago
Socialist presidential candidate addresses L.A. May Day rally
Unionists, students in Los Angeles march to legalize all immigrants
Socialist vice presidential candidate joins Chicago May Day demonstration
List of May Day Actions for Immigrant Rights

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