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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 73/No. 19      May 18, 2009

(lead article)
Chicago May 1 rally demands legalization
‘Immigrant rights central issue for labor’
Militant/Jorge Letora
Contingent at May Day rally in downtown Chicago May 1. Banner reads: “Down with the deportations. This is my land! This is my fight!” Action’s lead banner, and official march theme, was: “Without legalization there can be no equal labor rights.”

CHICAGO, May 1—More than 3,000 workers and students marched from Union Park to Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago on May Day in support of legalization of all immigrants. They also defied an attempt by city authorities to cancel the march and rally on the pretext of the outbreak of the swine flu virus.

Tens of thousands more marched in dozens of other actions celebrating the international workers’ holiday across the country.

In Chicago contingents of workers from several unions, day laborers, street vendors, and high school and college students marched behind a lead banner proclaiming the theme of this year’s May Day march: “Without legalization there can be no equal labor rights.” Participants included immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Korea, Poland, and Palestine, as well as workers and youth born in the United States.

“I’m here because they need our help,” explained Jarrell Flowers, an unemployed African American warehouse worker.

Estela García, 43, who works in a printing plant, joined the march to demand an end to the raids. “We’re looking for work, nothing more. Every day you go to work fearing deportation,” she said.

March organizers refused to cancel the demonstration until “every sporting event, movie showing, church service, and class is cancelled,” said Margarita Klein, staff director of Workers United union.

“Workers and immigrants are under attack and city officials can not discourage May Day organizers from exercising their rights to raise issues that affect millions of people,” said the press statement issued by the March 10th Coalition, which organized the event.

Nayeli Vázquez, who marched with a group of 20 students from Glenbrook South High School, carried large colorful monarch butterflies made of cardboard. “Butterflies migrate wherever they need to survive, and they don’t need papers,” she said.

Seventeen-year-old Arely Ramírez said, “I came to march for the rights of workers. Immigrant workers work many hours and get paid less. My mother works in a meat factory and my father works at a dry cleaners.”

Armando Robles, president of United Electrical Workers Local 1110, spoke at the rally on behalf of former workers at Republic Windows and Doors who staged a weeklong sit-in and won 60 days’ wages and benefits due them under federal law after the plant closed. “We are demanding that President [Barack] Obama implement immigration reform,” he said. “We need legalization so that all workers have the right to be organized for the union to defend our rights.”

Tom Balanoff, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Illinois State Council president, said, “We need a real recovery for working families, and immigrant workers need a road to legalization and a road to citizenship so all workers can recover.”

María Hernández, a laundry worker and member of Workers United, sounded a more urgent note. “Obama, listen to us! Children are being separated from their parents,” she said. “We need amnesty for all, now!”

Carlos Arango, director of Casa Aztlan and a longtime fighter for immigrant rights, also addressed the crowd. “President Obama has built two walls,” he said. “A physical wall on the border and a virtual wall with computers.” He was referring to the government’s E-Verify online data system that verifies a worker’s immigration status.

No elected officials spoke from the platform this year, in sharp contrast with last year’s action, which was addressed by Chicago mayor Richard Daley among others. The Chicago police insisted that the march step off half an hour earlier than scheduled, preventing hundreds from joining it.

Laura Anderson, Maggie Trowe, and John Hawkins contributed to this article.
Related articles:
Socialist Workers candidates speak at U.S. May Day rallies
Phoenix march protests anti-immigrant sheriff
Many students join California May 1 marches
Los Angeles: ‘We need legalization, employment’
Caribbean workers march May 1 for jobs, pay raise
Immigrant workers put stamp on actions

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