NEW YORK – Some 30,000 flag-waving demonstrators marched down Broadway here on May Day demanding labor rights and immigration reform. They were among additional thousands who marched in other U.S. cities and millions who marched all over the world.
The peaceful crowd was composed mostly of union members, immigrants and supporters of immigration reform.
After rallying at Union Square, delegations from practically every union in the city marched into the streets and made their way down Broadway on the five-mile trek to City Hall. Sometimes an individual union had had so many members marching that the one group stretched for blocks. Wave after wave of union members joined the march, including hundreds and sometimes a thousand each from the Transport Workers, the Service Employees, the United Federation of Teachers, the Steelworkers, the Autoworkers, the Laborers, the Teamsters, the Musicians, the Communications Workers, and many more.
“I brought my three-year-old daughter here from Colombia 13 years ago because she was dying,” said Alberto Velez, one of the marchers. “New York City is great. They saved her life in the hospital and here she is today,” he said, as he put his arm around his now 16-year-old daughter, Rosie. “I work hard, we love this town and we are already good citizens in every way. Why not legalize us?”
“Workers rights and immigrant rights go hand in hand,” said Saul Nieves, who said he does “member engagement” for his union, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees.
“These two issues are the glue that hold us together,” he said, as he marched with a thousand of his union members, among them Latino janitors, African American building service workers, and Polish and Albanian office cleaners.
Immigration reform took on special importance at this and other May Day demonstrations as Congress considers legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented.
Thousands of the marchers yesterday were young, some of them at their first-ever May Day March.
Gregory Reynoso, 26, who delivers for a Domino’s Pizza in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, was among he thousands of fast food workers who went out on one-day strikes recently, demanding a liveable wage.
“I’m marching today to show support for the union, Fast Food Forward,” he said. “After I walked out they tried to harass me but I told them we would not stop trying to organize. We are strong because the union and the community backs us up.”
Reynoso said he earns just $7.35 an hour because the company says he makes good tips. “That’s nonsense,” he said, “Some people don’t tip and I am not a teenager. I have a wife and a child to support. I have to use my own car, paying for gas and repairs. And this job can be dangerous. Once I was held up at gunpoint while making a delivery. The person who called for the pizza figured deliverers carry a lot of money and that is simply not the case.”
Other marchers were real veterans of May Day marches and not so young. Ed Davis, a World War II veteran who said he first marched on May Day in 1937 said, “This is wonderful. It’s a new world we’re living in when you see the main stream of the labor movement pouring out into the streets on this day.”
“Labor is ready to rumble,” declared Raglan George, president of District Council 1707 of AFSCME. “This is our day Labor Day! We are here to raise our voices against those forces that try to oppress us,” he added at the City Hall rally that followed the march. “We may not have the money but we have people power.
Every day the rich try to take from us to put on the backs of our people and our children so that they can remain rich while we struggle.”
Sonia Ivany, president of the New York City Labor Coalition for Latin American Advancement, said, “This great May Day that we are celebrating in New York City was built by a coalition including the Alliance for Labor Rights, immigrant rights, jobs for all, the May First Coalition and Occupy Wall Street. So let’s hear it for all the partners that helped to build this May Day!”
The president of the New York City Central Labor Council, Vincent Alvarez, said, “As we go forward today, always remember, that together as one movement we can accomplish anything, because the people in power are not as strong as each one of you. The power of the people will always be stronger than the people with the power.”
John Wojcik, Libero Della Piana, Sam Webb, Jarvis Tyner, Earchiel Johnson, Bill Davis and Esther Moroze contributed to this story.
Photo: John Graham/PW