Marching on May Day: Los Angeles coalition plans major demo
A balloon of Donald Trump holding a Ku Klux Klan hood is front and center at the 2018 May Day march in Los Angeles. | Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times via AP

LOS ANGELES—The labor movement of Los Angeles, regarded by many as the most progressive in the country, will once again coalesce for a massive demonstration of people’s power on Wednesday, May 1, on the streets of the city.

May 1 is International Workers’ Day in virtually every land.

The theme of the march and rally is “LA People’s Power/LA Poder del Pueblo,” calling out the Trump administration’s ongoing attacks on immigrants and workers.

The May Day Coalition of Los Angeles, comprising more than 30 organizations committed to labor and immigrant rights, has determined five main issues to emphasize along the one-mile route:

  1. Celebrate worker victories and uphold their right to unionize.
  2. Everyone must be counted in the Census.
  3. Earning a living is a human right.
  4. End all forms of immigrant persecution, and
  5. Voting rights for all in municipal elections.

The May Day event starts at 3 pm, leading off from the corner of 6th St. and Park View in downtown Los Angeles.

“The original May Day was an international workers’ celebration more than 130 years ago,” said Rusty Hicks, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. He was referring to the first workers’ May Day, which took place in Chicago in 1886 and soon spread around the world.

“Our nation’s leaders tried to use lies and fear about immigrants to pit working people against one another,” Hicks said. “They didn’t divide us then. We won’t let them do it now. This May Day, we march to show that we are always stronger standing together and fighting back.”

Angelica Salas, executive director at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), spoke at a press conference on April 16 to discuss plans for the day. “On May Day, I march because I am a member of a community that sees work, and the chance to find better work, as a human right,” she said. “No one should be persecuted for working to support their family, or for pursuing those better opportunities. No one should be treated as a criminal for seeking the work that feeds their children, no matter where that work is.”

“On May Day,” said grocery worker and UFCW Local 770 member DeAndre Williams, “all of us workers and our communities in the City of Los Angeles should come together and march to show the power of the workers and to show the power of the people standing together because only standing together we can win.”

“May Day is a special day for the Garment Worker Center,” said its director, Marissa Nuncio, “as its history is steeped in the organizing struggles of 19th-century textile workers. Each year, and this May Day, we march to honor workers around the world. We march to connect the present-day fights for just wages, dignified working conditions, and an active voice in the workplace for the 45,000 garment workers in Los Angeles to the workers’ rights movement built by workers and their families!” Los Angeles, with its recent population growth among new immigrants from Asia and Latin America, is now considered the garment capital of the U.S., surpassing New York City.

May Day 2018 in Los Angeles. | Eric Gordon/PW

“My colleagues and I live paycheck to paycheck,” said Evelyn Campos, a fast food worker and a leader in the #FightFor15. “Sometimes we don’t get paid, and none of us get the benefits that we deserve. We’re marching not just for higher wages but for respect and better working conditions—with the determination to never give up in our fight for ourselves, for our families, and for future generations.”

The Fight for 15 has scored notable success in Los Angeles and in the state of California, offering an example to the rest of the country. In many places, the minimum wage is still stuck at the federally mandated minimum of $7.25 an hour. There is no place in the country where workers earning that minimum wage would be able to support themselves. The corporate class claims that raising wages will translate into lost jobs. The experience of California shows this is not so: The economy is producing a surplus for the state.

“I dream of a country where young people like myself can come looking for refuge and this country will give us a place to grow and thrive,” said Yamilex Rustrian of SEIU-USWW. “Our fight doesn’t end on May Day. We have to keep getting out the vote. We have to pass AB547 in Sacramento so immigrant women and all of us can stop sexual harassment in the workplace.”

“We are the ones on the front lines of the fight for higher standards in our professions,” said Monique Hernandez from SEIU 121RN, which is sponsoring the Repeat Offender bill, SB227, to prevent hospitals from endangering patient safety. “We are fighting for standards of care in the hospitals we work in. We leverage our power to protect patients and protect nurses from hospitals that prioritize profit over safety and health. This is the year our movement will bring much-needed change to an industry that will not change on its own.”

Speaking of the importance of the May Day march to building strong coalitions, Robert Hernandez of the L.A. Black Workers Center said, “It would be just like Dr. Martin Luther King and the movement. As well as Cesar Chavez and the movement he led.”

All labor and people’s civic organizations are encouraged to rally and march this year. The stakes could not be higher.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.