News, commentary and analysis by leaders of the Communist Party USA in New York State. We discuss State politics and issues in New York City, covering developments in labor, civil rights education, housing and more.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

NYC May Day rally: thousands bring tradition back, urge legislative reform

By Peter Gale
From the People's World newspaper:

The thousands of people jamming Manhattan’s Foley Square on May 1 demanding labor rights and immigration reform are part of a long tradition, stretching all the way back to the 1800s. The date was picked by the world working-class movement in memory of workers rallying peacefully in support of the eight hour day in the Haymarket Square rally, which became a massacre on May 4, 1886 in Chicago. Until now, it has been more widely celebrated in other countries than in the country where it started. But Latinos have sparked an interest in May Day rallies in the United States since 2006. This year, many labor unions climbed on board in unity with immigrant organizations.

The boisterous crowd was about two-thirds Latino, reflecting the fighting spirit among Latinos to fight for immigration reform, and reflecting the large immigrant population in New York City from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, and other countries in Central and South America.

Members of the Transport Workers Union, Local 100, Service Employees International Union, with many unionists from Local 1199, the Laborers Union, United Federation of Teachers, Professional Staff Congress, and other unions were present in force.

The most common poster seen among the crowd was “Friends Keep their Promises.” This slogan was a reminder to the Senate that immigration reform is part of the Obama agenda. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY, has been preparing immigration reform legislation to introduce this year. It was originally intended to be a bipartisan effort in a partnership with Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC. Graham appears to have been pressured by Republican obstructionists who are trying to say “no” to everything in the Obama agenda. It is not clear whether Graham will continue to help pass any bipartisan legislation, so Schumer now appears to be working mostly with Democrats, while trying to woo one or two breakaway Republicans.

A few days before the rallies, President Obama warned that Congress may not have the “stomach” to pass immigration reform yet. It is not clear just how much a step forward the Schumer legislation will be.

In the meantime, immigrants are suffering from threats of deportation, harassment, discrimination, and occasional violence from employers, landlords, and some whites who worry that they might lose their jobs to immigrants willing to work for a minimum wage, or sometimes less. The labor movement in the United States has realized that it must fight discrimination and racism against immigrants in order to foster unity in the fight for labor rights and economic justice. The labor movement has come slowly to realize that undocumented immigrants living in fear of deportation and discrimination will be fearful to speak out for justice for all workers.

Many speakers and signs spoke out against the new Arizona law which many fear will end up profiling immigrants for police harassment. As the crowd chanted English and Spanish slogans, the most common one was “Obama Escucha, Estamos en la Lucha,” "Obama, Listen, We are in the Struggle."

The march went south from Foley Square, going west on Barkley Street. The crowd turned north on Church Street, and circling east on Worth Street to return to Foley Square.

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