Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day 2011

Today is May Day, which since 1890 has been a day to celebrate the international labor movement and commemorate the infamous Haymarket Massacre, when the Chicago police killed numerous demonstrators during a general strike (fighting for an eight-hour work day) in 1886. Around the world today people will be marching, singing, shouting, and waving placards in the streets of their towns and cities. About an hour ago Kath stopped in to pick up the proofs that arrived here from our printer, en route to Seattle's celebration on this second amazingly consecutive day of sunshine.

This year's May Day has special significance in the US, thanks to the egregious attacks on workers rights underway in numerous states, most famously in Wisconsin by notorious governor Scott Walker. This year's theme, here in the US is one that gladdens my heart: the alliance between organized labor and immigrants. These two groups have been traditionally pitted against one another. More recently, organized labor has begun to see the light-- begun to understand and acknowledge that workers and immigrants have shared, common interests at stake. And so, as Allison Kilkenny notes in the Nation, this year

The San Jose May 1 Coalition is hosting a march for immigration rights, while the protests of Governor Scott Walker continue in Wisconsin. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will speak at Milwaukee’s May Day march today in one of more than 100 marches and rallies that will be held across the country.

The AFL-CIO is live-blogging May Day actions and also  tweeting updates under the hashtag #MayDay. In a written statement, the union’s blog reads: “These rallies and marches will show workers’ rights and immigrant rights are connected.”

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, founder and executive director of Voces de la Frontera, says that there is now “an unprecedented alliance” between labor and immigrant rights communities in the wake of Walker’s bill that eliminate bargaining rights for public workers.  “We want to send a message to corporate America, politicians and others that working people will not be divided,” she says.

VDLF’s website features a video in Spanish advertising the Wisconsin solidarity May 1 march.

Sheila Cochran, secretary-treasurer of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and its chief operating officers tells the Journal Sentinel that instead of blaming immigrants for lack of employment opportunities, workers should hold their employers accountable for encouraging a race to the bottom in a frenzy to maximize profits. Cochran says it’s in labor’s interest to see comprehensive immigration reform so wages and working standards aren’t driven down further.

Internationally, May Day protests are garnering much attention. Eight people were arrested during a protest in Brighton, and massive marches occurred in Russia and Turkey. More than 3,000 blue-collar workers took to the streets of Taipei for their May Day protest over low incomes, long hours, and the widening wealth gap, and in Kuala Lumpur 20 protesters were arrested for failing to disperse from an “illegal assembly.”

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