International Workers’ Day, May 1, is celebrated by tens of millions of people around the world. Its radical history emerged from the Haymarket Square resistance and the massacre that followed in 1886.
May Day was revived as a workers’ day by the immigrant rights movement in the United States in 2009. As the labor movement continues to blossom in the United States, more and more people here now recognize International Workers’ Day or “May Day.” Thousands of workers joined May Day events around the country this year despite the limitations presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
New York City
Hundreds rallied at 2 p.m. in New York City’s Union Square in front of Whole Foods, and then marched to Jeff Bezos’s apartment at 26th Street and 5th Ave. for a closing rally. The action was sponsored by Workers Assembly Against Racism, BAYAN USA, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists NYC, and several other organizations.
In a passionate speech, Claudia de La Cruz of The People’s Forum exclaimed, “The roots of the problems that we live day to day — it’s called capitalism! It’s called the exploitation of people that are feeding this machine. We have to shut shit down, and we have to be unified to do it, because we only get what we’re organized to take! And they are not giving us an inch! And rather than fighting each other for reforms, we gotta fight to advance revolution in this country.”
The family of Anthony Alvarez and the Party for Socialism and Liberation called a mid-day rally and march at Portage Park, where Chicago police officer Evan Solano shot and killed Anthony Alvarez Alvarez on March 31. They were joined by 200 participants and several community organizations, including Black Lives Matter – Women of Faith, Centro Autónomo de Albany Park, Black Alliance for Peace, Justice for Nicholas Lee, ANSWER Chicago, and more.
At the rally, Jim Santoyo of ANSWER Chicago said, “CPD is the biggest, most violent gang in Chicago. … [Chicago Mayor] Lori Lightfoot loaded the gun that Evan Solano used to kill Anthony Alvarez.”
The Alvarez family and PSL put forth the following demands: Evan Solano must be removed from duty and arrested for murder, police harassment of the Alvarez family and witnesses must stop, CPD must immediately cease all foot pursuits, and the police must be defunded so the money can be spent on community needs.
A rally, march, and car caravan event began at Los Angeles State Historic Park where 2,000 people joined the May Day Coalition and ANSWER Coalition for this action at 10 a.m.
A wide list of demands were called, including passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, full immigrant rights and an end to deportations, closing of migrant concentration camps, canceling rents, taxing Amazon Burbank, ending the blockade on Cuba, ending both imperialism and China bashing, promoting communist revolution, and more.
Xochitl Cobarruvias, LA Chapter President of Labor Council for Latin American Advancement told Liberation News, “We are celebrating workers, all the rights gained through workers, and struggling against various corporations by marching together as here today and stating how today is a day of pride for workers! The workers united will never be defeated in the struggle!” (originally in Spanish, transcribed to English)
The rally honored the essential workers who passed away during COVID and the essential workers who are still facing dangerous work conditions and fighting for union power. Immigrant workers loudly chanted in song, “Que viva el comunismo y que viva el primer de Mayo!” (Translation: Long live communism and long live May 1!)
Approximately 2,500 people marched in San Francisco down Market Street from the Embarcadero to Civic Center. The 10 a.m. event was composed of a broad coalition of unions, socialist organizations, and other organizations. The San Francisco Labor Council, Alameda Labor Council, Contra Costa Labor Council, San Mateo Labor Council, South Bay Labor Council, APALA San Francisco Chapter, SEIU Local 1021, and IFPTE Local 21 were co-sponsors.
The event celebrated International Workers’ Day with an attempt to recreate the 1934 May Day march up Market Street in San Francisco. Marchers demanded the passing of the PRO Act, which empowers workers to exercise the freedom to organize and negotiate for better wages and working conditions. They also called for racial justice and the unification of the labor movement through the eradication of discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation and immigration status.
Dr. Angela Davis spoke at the post-march rally: “We want new ways of imagining safety and security, we want housing, we want schools, we want jobs, we want free healthcare for all. And we say no more George Floyds, no more Breonna Taylors, no more Daunte Wrights, no more Oscar Grants, no more Stephon Clarks, no more Sean Monterrosas. We also say labor united will never be defeated.”
San Jose, California
Roosevelt Park was the site of an opening rally for a march of around 400 people organized by the San Jose May Day Coalition, of which the PSL is a participating organization. The crowd gathered at 3 p.m. and marched to San Jose City Hall.
Adriana Garcia of Movimiento de Acción, Inspirando highlighted the coalition’s demands:
“Immigrant rights are workers’ rights. … Essential workers are not optional, their lives are not either. Therefore we demand Medicare for All … to raise the minimum wage and stop wage theft. We extend solidarity to Black Lives Matter, and demand an end to the endless wars across the world.”
A car caravan was held at the historic Chicano Park in Barrio Logan consisting of about 100 people. San Diego’s May Day Coalition, which is led annually by Unión del Barrio, grew in size since last year. Frequent participating organizations such as PSL San Diego, Anakbayan San Diego, and Association of Raza Educators were joined this year by the San Diego Peace and Freedom Party, American Indian Movement San Diego, Free Them All SD and other organizations.
Some of the demands included guaranteed access to all basic human rights, an end to union busting, raising the minimum wage to an actual living wage, and the closure of all U.S. military installations. In a speech at the opening rally, Danny Colmenarez highlighted the strength workers have when standing united: “We are so much stronger when we fight together rather than separated. The workers in Haymarket Square in Chicago knew this when they kicked off the wave of demonstrations and strikes across the entire country, half a million strong, in the major cities and rural towns.”
In conjunction with the San Diego May Day car caravan, about 30 cars gathered at Washington Park in Escondido, California for a 1:30 p.m. car caravan that was organized by San Diego’s May Day Coalition. The caravan drove 25 miles to Oceanside High School.
UAW Postdoctoral Researchers Union Local 5810 and Student Workers Local 2865 called a march that began on the UC Davis Campus and made its way to Downtown Central Park.
The spirited march of around 50 people went down a restaurant-lined street parallel to UC Davis, receiving cheers and signs of solidarity from students and workers on the street. The march continued past the busy downtown farmers market chanting, “Housing! Justice!” Students and workers at the closing rally called for action to stop predatory landlords and racist housing policies and practices.
Make the Road CT, Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, and SEIU 32BJ put on a rally beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Abraham Ribicoff Federal Building. They were joined by about 100 participants demanding far-reaching immigration reform, the passage of HR 1909/S. 747, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act.
“The job of the city is to be able to help everyone, not ask about paper and status and any of that. If you live here and you are a human being then we are here to help you,” Joshua Michtom, Immigrant rights advocate and Hartford city council representative told the crowd.
West Hartford, Connecticut
Around 500 people gathered for a May Day rally outside Governor Ned Lamont’s mansion in West Hartford at noon. The Connecticut Recovery for All Coalition called this action to demand Governor Lamont replace an austerity budget with a pro-working class recovery plan.
The state legislature in Connecticut has 37 days left in the current session and Governor Ned Lamont seeks to have the budget finalized in that period.
The rally comes on the heels of the announcement that the SEIU Local 1199, the largest union of the state’s health care workers, set a strike date for May 14 that will affect members working in over 50 Connecticut nursing homes and group homes. Among the demands — which have echoed across the healthcare sector in the state — included raises, increased health care benefits, and greater access to personal protective equipment.
“‘Normal’ means not getting time off. ‘Normal’ means getting paid late. ‘Normal’ means poverty wages while working three jobs and still not qualify for state health care. ‘Normal’ is not good enough!” said SEIU member and health care worker Shomit Sengupta at the rally.
A march of 350 people made its way through Downtown Milwaukee starting at noon. Immigrants rights group Voces de la Frontera organized the march, which proceeded from Mitchell Street to the Milwaukee Federal Courthouse. Voces de la Frontera was joined by a large contingent from the organized labor community and several socialist organizations, including PSL.
When asked by Liberation News why he was participating in the May Day March, community organizer Juan Miguel Martinez stated, “Empty promises to placate the Latinx community mean nothing. It all falls under this guise they sell us called “democracy.” We will not stop until we have strong union jobs for our people, a path to citizenship that doesn’t involve years of loopholes, and there is a sense of respect for our people instilled. We will not put up with being spit in the face any longer.”
A crowd consisting of upwards of 200 people met up for a rally at St. Mary’s Church before marching to the Federal Courthouse in Seattle. El Comite hosted the action with a lengthy list of pro-working class and pro-immigrant demands.
Adriana Hernandez Jimenez, youth organizer for One America rhetorically asked the crowd, “What does a path to citizenship mean to me?” She followed by saying a path to citizenship would ease her fears of her parents being deported and help them find better jobs.
PSL – Eastern Washington, CLAF of Eastern Oregon and Washington, and Luchadores por Cambio – Tri-Cities organized a rally at Memorial Park in Pasco. Around 30 participants joined them.
Mitch of PSL Eastern Washington laid out the purpose of the action: “It is we the workers who have built this nation and the world, and it is we the workers who should run the world.”
A celebration rally at 11 a.m. at Everglade Park in Dallas was held by the AFL-CIO and Young Active Labor Leaders. They were joined by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Democratic Socialists of America, and about 100 other participants.
Chilean musical performances and U.S. labor and union songs lifted the celebratory mood. Socialists spoke at the event about the importance of defeating capitalism through a worker’s movement, and the history of the Haymarket strikes. Olinka Green of DSA highlighted the importance of Black liberation to class struggle. In homage to Karl Marx, Green said “We can’t be free from exploitation until we’re all free. There is no way to win a workers movement without the Movement for Black Lives, and there can’t be Black liberation without a labor movement.”
A rally at noon was organized in Cleveland at Wade Park, University Circle. A living wage, universal healthcare, a “worker’s bill of rights,” and justice against police violence were the demands of Black Lives Matter Cleveland and the 70 protesters that joined them.
Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition, Sunrise Movement Cleveland, Black Spring Cleveland, Poor People’s Campaign, Interreligious Task Force on Central America, DSA, Communist Party USA, and PSL also participated in the action. Dan O’Malley, Lakewood City Council President and North Ohio AFL-CIO leader called on unaffiliated attendees to join these organizations.
Over 70 people rallied at Senator John Hickenlooper’s Office at the Federal Building in Downtown Denver at 2 p.m. for an action called by DSA Denver. Other sponsoring organizations included PSL Denver, United Campus Workers Colorado, Communications Workers of America, the Teamsters, May Day Club and many other unions and community groups.
“We are not just here to demand [Senators Hickenlooper’s and Bennet’s] support of the PRO Act. We are also here on May 1st, International Workers’ Day, to demonstrate to our senators, and all the politicians and the bosses and the people in the corridors of power all around this country, the power of workers united behind a common goal. We will fight and we will win!” proclaimed Moira Casados Cassidy, a high school teacher, Vice President-elect of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, and PSL member.
Manchester, New Hampshire
A 1 p.m. rally and march convened at Veterans Park in Manchester that was organized by NH Youth Movement, Rural Youth Movement, and South New Hampshire PSL.
Socialist and communist flags flew high throughout the event. The march ended at Merrimack River, where live music was set up to play union songs and the 100 or so participants sang along in unison.
Fifty people gathered at East Liberty Presbyterian Church for a 1 p.m. rally. The action called by PSL Pittsburgh demanded housing, healthcare, and education as well as full and equal rights for Black people, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.
PSL was joined by the New Afrikan Independence Party, Pittsburgh Anti-Imperialist League, Western Pennsylvania Unemployment Councils, ANSWER Coalition, and other organizations.
Reservoir Park in Lancaster was the site of a 30 person celebration co-sponsored by PSL and Lancaster Abolition Group.
Activists and community members of Lancaster gathered to commemorate the past year of struggle against capitalism and white supremacy. The PSL provided free food and political education materials. Workshops on knowing your rights during protests and how to create ‘zines were held.
On May 1 at 1 p.m., Atlanta PSL organized a May Day speak out in the neighborhood where the Atlanta Liberation Center is located. People from the community came together to enjoy food, music, listen to speeches, and engage in political conversations. Organizers spoke to a range of issues impacting workers and the need for organization. Cancellation of rents and mortgages, healthcare for all, and full rights for all immigrants were some of the core demands raised.
PSL groups in Miami, Anchorage, and Yellow Springs, Ohio also hosted or co-hosted May Day events.