OAKLAND, Calif. – May Day and Cinco de Mayo were celebrated here April 27 with an exciting program of tributes to area labor and community organizations. The program, sponsored by Northern California Friends of the People’s Weekly World, featured rap performances, song and eyewitness accounts of the massive April 20 marches to stop the Bush administration’s “war at home and abroad.”

Clarence Thomas, secretary-treasurer of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, warned of the danger to port workers, the labor movement and all Americans from right-wing government-corporate initiatives to screen port workers from their jobs based on past criminal records. Rather than a threat, he said, they should view workers as a resource for improving security, but the employers’ perspective “places profits over the security” of ports, workers and communities.

Thomas, who spoke at the Washington, D.C., demonstration April 20, remarked on the diversity and unity of the huge crowd, and the rally’s emphasis redirecting funds from war to human needs and jobs.

Daz Lamparas, airport union organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 790, received on behalf of his union one of the “certificates of appreciation” presented by the World. Lamparas spoke movingly of the struggle being waged by San Francisco’s airport screeners who are being denied the right to continue in skilled work they have done successfully, often over many years, because they are not U.S. citizens.

Performances by political rap group “The Students,” former steelworker singer-songwriter Dave Wood and soprano Latreva Branch were warmly received.

Evelina Alarcon, coordinator of the campaign for a national holiday honoring labor and civil rights leader César Chávez, urged the audience to participate in getting resolutions passed in city councils supporting and joining the campaign, and lobbying their members of Congress. The national campaign is modeled on the successful California campaign.

Pierre Labossiere of Let Haiti Live! called on participants to join the Congressional Black Caucus and religious and labor organizations in demanding the U.S. government release over $500 million in humanitarian aid to Haiti. The Bush administration is holding these funds hostage to leverage a “political outcome” against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was elected by a landslide.

Others receiving certificates were representatives from Health Care Workers SEIU Local 250, United Service Employees SEIU Local 616, the Stanford University Coalition for Labor Justice, Just Cause Oakland and the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy.

Scott Marshall, head of the Labor Department of the Communist Party USA, said May Day and Cinco de Mayo are two sides of the same struggle. He noted that AFL founding president Samuel Gompers told the first May Day celebration that the day would forever be remembered as a second Declaration of Independence. Marshall said Cinco de Mayo is also rooted in the struggle for independence and freedom from foreign domination, and for true working-class equality.

The author can be reached at ncalview@igc.org

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