Below is a brief description of May Day and the history of it.
May Day is a day upon which radical social justice action has been taken to support the needs and goals of the 99 percent. The holiday began as a day for coordinated celebration and agitation for the struggles of workers for quality living and working conditions, as well as a just workplace system. Many subsequent May Day movements further advocate for universal peace and equality. Some incorporate Anglo May Day spring rituals, and thus tie labor struggles to the celebration of birth, nature, and the environment. In the last decade in the United States May Day has become a site for recognition and support for the struggles of undocumented immigrant workers.Today several direct actions and marches were planned through out Manhattan by Occupy Wall Street, Labor unions, workers, and activists seeking to bring attention to the many problems of the 99%. For a full list of the days activities you can check out: http://maydaynyc.org/...
The origin of May Day comes from 19th century popular movements supporting an eight-hour work day in the United States. It was commonplace throughout 19th century for workers in industry and trades to organize for better working conditions, pay, and humane hours, and they formed various unions, federations, and other groups to work together for common goals. While workers in most major U.S. Cities were organizing, Chicago was the center of the movement. The groups decided that May 1st 1886 would be the first day of a declared eight hour workday, and organized a non-violent general strike to support the decree. More then 500,000 across the U.S. Became a strong, unified body on this day, and the world paid heed.
May Day was formalized as an international holiday in 1891 in Paris. It has since become an official holiday in many countries where governments respect the will of working people. In all places where May Day is celebrated, it is common for people to come together in the streets at rallies, marches, and demonstrations. While the tactics and aims of May Day change in response to the ever-shifting labor, social, environmental, and political problems created by market and finance capitalism, the general spirit of militant support for working people remains the same from the 1800s until today.
I decided that I was going to participate in May Day and plugged myself back into the Occupy network of organizers (Yes they are still active: see Occupy Sandy) and wanted to participate in the immigrant workers march leaving from Bryant Park this morning.
When I arrived at the park people were still gathering and getting dressed in various costumes for the march. Massive puppets commonly seen at Occupy events were being hoisted up onto the shoulders of intrepid puppeteers. The Guitarmy members were busy tuning their instruments and going over what to do if and when they NYPD decided to arrest us. Songs pamphlets with the lyrics to some of the most notable songs were being handed out along with literature describing exactly what we were going to be doing today.
The Immigrant March for Justice left Bryant Park around 12:30 with several hundred workers, activists, puppets, musicians, and various media people all trailing together and being shepherded by the NYPD in their usual fashion having a massive police presence for peaceful demonstrators. The intention of the march was very specific. It was not to have some abstract goal of taking to the streets or railing against the powers that be in some flailing way, but instead a concise action to target corporations and politicians (Namely Senator Schumer) in an effort for them to pay attention to the 99% and workers plights.
The first stop on the march was Atlas Media which is the producer of Travel Channel's Hotel Impossible, and is well-known as a digital sweatshop, eroding industry standards and driving down wages. Wage theft and overtime violations are widespread as employees are forced to work 50-70 hours a week without overtime pay. We picketed in front of Atlas's main building in Manhattan as NYPD stood in the entrance of the office building. A man walking by us decided to throw his cup of coffee over his shoulder to land on people picketing and the NYPD allowed him to pass. Several former employees stood in front and spoke their stories about their wages being stolen, fired for seeking unionize and that the reason Atlas gave for having such horrid labor practices is that it was "Industry Standard".
I had little expectation that the workers would get their wages compensated or be rehired by the employee but the message was clear that if you mistreat your workers you are going to have to pay a penalty.
Next the march of several hundred proceed to Times Square to rally in front of McDonalds. The company has engaged in wage theft, discrimination, and leads the fight to keep workers making poverty wages. In NYC the minimum wage is 7.50 yet the avg rent outside of Manhattan is over 1,000$ for a studio and 1,300 for a one bedroom apartment. These low wages keep workers impoverished and in a constant cycle of living pay check to pay check.
There are about 50,000 workers in fast food, one of the faster growing industries in NYC. Workers earn poverty wages for highly profitable companies like McDonald's, Domino's and Wendy's. That's why hundreds of fast food workers in NY are calling for uncontested right to form a union and wages of 15$ an hour.
Capital Grille was next and for over a year workers at The Capital Grille, with the assistance of ROC-NY have been working to change their workplace conditions. The workers allege racial discrimination and wage theft, in addition to lack of paid sick days or annual raises. Meanwhile, parent company Darden Restaurants pulled in over 700$ million in profits last year. Workers are calling on Darden to sit down with them and ROC to discuss a fair settlement to their grievances.
After picketing in front of Capital Grille it was time to move on to the final location for the march. Senator Schumer's office. Families for Freedom led a speak-out to shed light on the collusion between the "Gang of 8", the 1% and immigrant detection center profiteers such as the Corrections Corp of American and the GEO group. Directly impacted speakers shared their fears about the upcoming "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" that will create second class workers for years to come. they demanded an immigration reform based on human rights now, not future economic models.
However amid the peace of the words being spoken and the hip hop social conscience music being performed on stage it would not be an immigration rally in America if the bigots did not show up.
They staged a counter protest across the street and when I walked up to one of them holding a sign he refused to let me photograph it. Fine - I moved on but not before loudly screaming "Racist" (I can get angry sometimes) and removed myself back into the rally. You can't fix stupid and you can't reason with bigots. You can only hope these people die off so that we can move towards a more progressive society.
This is the future. This is hope for the American dream.
I'll leave you with the RadiOWS show my affinity group and I put together last May Day that discusses labor issues through use of music, skits, and interviews. It aired on WBAC in NY last year and I was very proud of that. Also here is the accompanying video I created from the footage of the marches.
What do you do when workers rights are under attack?
Stand up fight back.
Happy May Day.
5:41 PM PT: Rec list? Thank you!