Marchers go by the San Diego Convention Center by Nadin Abbott
May 1, 2013 (San Diego)-- Hundreds of Union Members and supporters came out today to the streets of San Diego to march for both labor right and immigrant rights. Pedro Rios of the Friends Committee (from El Cajon) said that "May Day is a day we are reclaiming for our community."
Marches started in 2006 "when there were macro demonstrations around the country," including San Diego. At the national level, this is about Immigrant Rights, which are connected to labor rights. May Day also celebrates the events of the Haymarket on May 1st, 1886 when a bomb went off at the Haymarket in Chicago, killing police officers and strikers alike. Labor leaders, immigrants themselves, were hauled before the court and were found guilty of setting this bomb off. They received the death penalty and ironically became a symbol for workers around the world. This is why May Day is International Labor day.
Around the world this is a holiday. In Mexico, where I grew up, the eight martyrs were remembered, but in the United States May Day was just another day. We have lost this day. So now, that we are seeing it recovered, it is striking. You might ask why? The workers were demanding a right most Americans workers take for granted. the eight hour work day.
So I asked Rios about this revival. As he put it, the unions that have been hit the worst with e-verify and other attacks on immigrants among them the Janitors Union and UNITE here, the hotel workers, are now aware of May Day. He also said that the goal was to get about five hundred people to come. I would say they met the goal, and perhaps more than five hundred people joined the march.
Rios also said that due to the support of the Labor Council and Lorena Gonzales, the compromise to celebrate the day is regional.
I asked him about expanding to the East County, where we have many workers in the service industry, as well as poverty levels that are unequal. He said that there are now alliances emerging, for instance with the Human Rights Coalition from El Cajon. Rios added that they were working to "create connections with communities that want to join the struggle for labor rights."
An Occupy San Diego Member, .Damian.. by Nadin Abbott
Some of the Unions present were UNITE here, UFCW Local 135, EIU Healthcare, UDW (They are home care providers), Occupy San Diego, which while not a Union, it's still very active, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). AFSCME was also present en force.
Geneve Aguilar of the Janitors Union (that like Hotel Workers are facing e-verify in order to suppress labor organizing, and face 500 dismissals soon), simply said, "enough of criminalizing the worker."
She introduced Rosa Lopez, a member of the Union, local 19877 of the SEIU. This local represents workers at the Airport, among other places, there they clean so you can have a good experience. She said that she "came to the United States over twenty years ago." She came to make a life, and give a better future to her children.
Then she mentioned her comrades, over five hundred janitors, "who came to this country to work, not to be separated from their families," or to lose their ability to make a living. She added, "we are going to work for the migratory reform. It's not just for us, but others who have been affected by this situation." She closed by reminding people that "they might take our jobs away, but not our dignity."
Rios reminded people that "It's become a day for immigrants to assert their rights." In an ironic twist of history, and Santayana was right, "those who forget history are bound to repeat it." The workers at the Haymarket were immigrants, asserting their rights, though the strike and other methods. Here we are, over a hundred years later, and immigrants still have to assert their rights.
"We have seen too much when workers are denied jobs" whether it is the San Diego Mission Valley Hilton, or the five hundred Janitors that are about to lose their jobs. "All of us will be better off when eleven million come out from the shadows."