May 1, 2010

Black NJ says: May 1st—Justicia Ahora!!!

"We don't just demand jobs for all," People's Organization for Progress chairman Lawrence Hamm proclaimed, "Slavery had a JOBS for ALL plan! We demand jobs at a living wage, good union wages that will allow us to educate our children. We demand jobs that won't require us to hold three or four separate ones at the same time just so we can buy shoes for our babies!!!"
In the wake of Arizona's racist new anti-immigrant law (SB 1070) which requires local police to stop and question anyone they may suspect of being born outside the U.S., and further obliges anyone who might be questioned to carry papers to prove their status, the battle against this apartheid-like ruling has drawn the line for May Day marches. Latina/o and other immigrant workers, immigrants' rights advocates, and the labor movement in general planned major May 1st rallies in immigrant population-centers across the country. Not since the massive, multi million-strong immigration rights rallies of 2006, has the International Workers Holiday been celebrated with huge rallies in so many locations.
The New York-New Jersey metropolitan area hosts many massive immigrant communities, so it ought to be no surprise that NYC and Brooklyn, as well as Trenton, Newark, and Morristown all had multiple rallies May 1st. Newark's wasn't among the largest, but the working people in attendance may have been among the most motivated.
May Day originated in Chicago during the struggle for the eight-hour day in 1886. That first May Day saw more than 300,000 U.S. workers walk off their jobs in over 13,000 businesses. May Day has, from the first, been associated with immigrant rights and the struggle of Black workers as well as "simple" labor-economic demands. The bulk of marchers in that first May Day were foreign-born workers and relocated former-slaves looking for labor-justice during the "Long-Depression" (1873-96) following the Civil War.
While the actual history of May Day may be of limited academic interest, it becomes truly important as U.S. workers develop the understanding necessary to fight the modern 21-century fascism of the "tea-party" movement. As POP's Larry Hamm pointed out, no worker is illegal to the mortgage companies who scam us into "loser-loans" that big bankers then speculate on, and no social-security card is required by employers if they can use the threat of our status (or lack of status) as a wedge to keep us from uniting to fight in our own collective interests.
Union members from the Laborers International Union (LIUNA), the CWA, the International Longshoremen's Association, the IBEW, and other labor organizations joined the rally. Soulful music and incisive speakers prepared the crowd of more than 100 to plan ahead, build the growing movement, organize future actions and take the next steps. Newark mayoral candidate Mirna White spoke (in English and Spanish) about the city's responsibility to its citizens. Ms. White didn't condescend, patronize or speak-down to the foreign-born demonstrators (as current mayor "Hollywood" Booker often seems to do), and I was impressed.

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