New Yorkers join in taking back May Day

The sun was shinning as 10,000 New Yorkers celebrated International Workers Day last Sunday, May 1. They joined millions around the world who have celebrated that day each year on a holiday made in the USA 125 years ago when Chicago workers rallying for the eight hour day were put to death by a judge in the service of business oligarchs.

The trade unionists, immigrant workers and community groups joined together in Foley Square, downtown Manhattan to send a message to Wall Street that workers are taking back a historic day that for too long was celebrated more around the world than here in the country of its birth.

Kevin Lynch, organizing director of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Local 338 put it this way, “May Day is our day in every sense of the word.”

There was a festive mood as people connected with their brothers and sisters who make this city work. The New York Labor Chorus sang Solidarity Forever.

There is a special ring to it when thousands of working people join in. Diana from Unite Here’s Local 100 cafeteria workers made her feelings known; “I’m here to support the Teachers and all the unions who work hard for our children. And now the city is making cuts that will hurt all of us. May Day is a day for all of us to come together.”

It was clear that the attack by Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker on public service workers and their unions was utmost on everyone’s mind.

“I’m upset about the attack on labor,” said Frank Farcas, a retired member of DC 37’s Local 1579. “The epicenter is in Wisconsin but it is happening around the country, threatening collective bargaining rights and setting labor back 50 to 75 years. I’m worried about the future of our children.”

About an hour and a half into the rally, the ranks were swelled by a feeder march from Union Square. Many immigrant rights organizations such as Make the Road and The New York Immigration Coalition joined the unions they see as their natural partners in this fight.

Everyone seemed to understand that the fight is not an easy one. They believe the right wing of the Republican Party and the newly elected Tea Party members of Congress are bent on destroying the labor movement and that they are up against the tactics the capitalist class has always used – divide and conquer.

Juan Negron, a union member from Brooklyn, said, “I am here to support American workers and workers around the world. They are taking too much away from us, they woke the sleeping giant and we are fighting back.”

A 20-year member of the Laborers, Samuel Araveytha said, “I am here to protest laws against immigrants.”

Tim Sheer, a UAW Local 1981 National Writers Union member, seemed to sum up the day: “The rich and powerful are taking more and more out of my pocket and the people I work with. They are taking too much of the pie. New York has the greatest disparity of wealth, and New York is a union town.”

A highlight of the day was the speech by Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO.

“We will build an America our children need, together,” she declared. “Together we will demand the passage of the Dream Act so all children can reach their aspirations. As one we will work for a new day when no one, no one remains in the shadows, when the circumstances of birth do not, do not my sisters and brothers determine your fate.”

Sonia Ivany, president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement said, “Together we send a strong and unified message to Albany. The hard fought gains will not be reduced. Together on this May Day we all come together. New York, Wisconsin united! The right for every single worker in this nation to have the right to organize unions. To have the right to collective bargaining and a living wage. United we are moving forward.”

Photo: Elena Mora/PW


Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.