Several thousand workers marched down the Las Vegas Strip led by Culinary Union Local 226. They were joined by contingents from the Teamsters and Service Employees International Union; university students; Jewish, Muslim and Christian clergy; the NAACP; the National Organization for Women; and others.
“The Culinary Union is not only Nevada’s largest union,” Local 226 spokesperson Bethany Khan told the Militant by phone May 2. “We are the largest immigrant organization in the state. We represent 57,000 workers from 167 countries who speak 40 different languages. We wanted to celebrate International Workers’ Day bringing together immigrants and the native-born.”
“With workers at more than 90 percent of the restaurants and casinos in the union, we’re truly a union town,” Khan said, “but we have to fight every day to preserve the gains we made. Presidents and other elected officials come and go, but the union is here to stay.”
Members of the Socialist Workers Party built and joined the actions, distributing a statement by Mary Martin, SWP candidate for mayor in Seattle. “No to deportations! Amnesty for all immigrants in the U.S.! Join the fight to unify the working class and build our unions,” Martin said. “Working people don’t like deportations and raids. Over decades they’ve gotten to know their immigrant co-workers, some with and others without papers.”
“I think that’s right,” Marcelos Torres said at the May Day protest in Reading, Pennsylvania. “I don’t think the majority of people in this country are against immigrants. Everyone needs a job.”
Some 4,000 marched in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city of less than 200,000. Nearly one-quarter of students stayed home from public schools. “We’re the foundation because we are the ones picking the produce. We are the ones working in restaurants,” Gema Lowe, a member of Cosecha Grand Rapids, one of the groups organizing the march, told Channel 13 TV. “We are already part of the fabric.”
Lorena Cruz, a student, told Channel 13 that she was glad to have received a work permit under DACA — a government program that put a moratorium on deportations for many immigrant youth — but that all the undocumented should be free from fear of being thrown out of the country. “We are here to stay and here to make a change,” she said.
Some of the protests were spearheaded by farmworkers, including in Yakima, Washington, where many of the 500 marchers were farmworkers or fruit processing plant workers. The United Farm Workers had a contingent of over 50 people, including workers from the Chateau St. Michelle winery.
“Stop Clarke” and “No 287g” were slogans on many signs and T-shirts at a march of thousands in Milwaukee, referring to notoriously anti-immigrant County Sheriff David Clarke. In March, Clarke requested authorization to join the federal 287g program — which authorizes local cops to function as immigration agents. It was adopted as part of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Some 160 businesses closed for the day, according to Voces de la Frontera, which organized the demonstration. Miguel Villegas told the Militant the muffler shop where he works shut down, and he and his co-workers attended the march.
“I work with immigrants every day,” Sharon Scott, a house cleaner who is African-American, told the Militant at a rally of 250 in Atlanta, organized by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. “They work very hard. Whenever I hear about a protest for immigrants I will be there.”
Jason Miller, 20, a student at Georgia State University, said, “It’s great that there are all kinds of people here, Latinos, Blacks and whites.”
Chanting “Si se puede,” contingents of SEIU Local 32BJ airport workers, janitors and others joined the march of 3,000 in Washington, D.C., which was organized by Casa Maryland.
“Workers with papers must fight for those without them to organize unions,” said Santos Carranza, a union carpenter. Over 100 of his co-workers skipped work, he added with a smile.
Some two dozen Metro workers, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, brought solidarity. “Immigrants have a right to be here,” said Jackie Jeter, Local 689 president. This was the first year the ATU joined a May Day action.
One of the largest actions was in Los Angeles, where tens of thousands marched, many with signs saying, “No human being is illegal.” Unionized janitors, health care workers and hotel workers had sizeable contingents in the march.
“That some people have been here all their lives and are threatened with being sent back is appalling,” said Sharlene Ruvalcaba, a Kaiser worker and member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770.
There were also International Workers Day protests around the world, from Puerto Rico to Kurdistan in Iraq to Ukraine. In Turkey workers faced cop attacks when they tried to march in Istanbul to demand better pay and working conditions.
In Berlin 14,000 marched, calling for restricting the use of temporary workers. Thousands of members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions rallied in Seoul with similar demands.
Edwin Fruit from Yakima, Washington; Naomi Craine from Milwaukee; Sam Manuel from Chicago; Arlene Rubinstein from Washington, D.C.; Janet Post from Reading, Pennsylvania; and Deborah Liatos from Los Angeles contributed to this article.
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