This Year’s May Day Demonstrations Draw Biggest Crowds in 40 Years

A broad-based coalition of unions, immigrants, faith-based groups, and people of conscience who are opposed to the anti-immigrant and anti-worker policies of the Trump administration was behind yesterday’s biggest May Day demonstrations the country has seen in 40 years.   

“The spirit of May Day has returned to the U.S., led by a new generation of immigrant workers,“ said Kent Wong, the director of the UCLA Labor Center and a vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

Dr. Debbie Almontaser, president of immigrant advocacy group Muslim Community Network, shared her favorite tweet of May Day showing a Native American questioning the logic behind opposition to immigrants in America:

Planned demonstrations in Los Angeles and California were headed by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, representing more than 800,000 union members.

May Day grew out of the struggle for the eight-hour workday in Chicago in 1886. The day to support workers’ rights is hugely popular in Europe and other parts of the world, where it is called International Workers’ Day and celebrated as a public holiday.

Yet, it had largely been obscured in the U.S. until recently, never reaching its glory days like the 1970 May Day, when thousands of students in hundreds of campuses across the U.S. protested against the ongoing Vietnam War. Or in 1971, when they shut down Washington completely.

What makes this year’s protests unique is that “some of the most dynamic labor organizing campaigns… have been led by immigrant workers, including janitors, hotel workers, home care workers, food workers, and car wash workers,” Wong said.

The day was expected to draw the biggest crowds on the West Coast with protests and one-day strikes in Los Angeles and California, where a growing labor and community alliance recently succeeded in passing a law for the $15 minimum hourly wage.

The coalition partners joining in the May Day march in Los Angeles were galvanized by their joint opposition to President Trump’s anti-immigration executive orders and the need to protect the work rights of immigrants who live in constant fear of being deported.

“Now, more than ever, we need to stand with our immigrant families in this dangerous time of repression and stepped up deportations,” Wong said. He added:

The United States is a land of immigrants, and all workers deserve respect and dignity regardless… Click to Tweet

On the East Coast, New York City led the way with several high-profile May Day actions planned for the day. The Immigrant Worker Justice tour convened at 12:30 pm with a rally at Washington Square Park followed by a march.

Another broad-based movement celebrated in New York along with May Day is the so-called Freedom Cities.

Freedom Cities goes beyond the concept of sanctuary cities and envisions a future where “communities control the sources they need to thrive,” according to the organizers, “… making entire cities, towns, and communities safe for immigrants, black people, workers, Muslims, trans and gender nonconforming people, and all oppressed communities.”

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