On May Day 2006, hundreds of thousands of immigrants participated in actions across the country, skipping work and school in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to protest a bill that would have made it a felony to be in the United States without documentation. The Bush-era legislation ultimately floundered. May Day, rooted in national protests for an eight-hour workday, solidified its status as a day for immigrant action.
“Those 2006 demonstrations were huge,” said Joshua Freeman, a history and labor professor at CUNY. “It was a little bit of an earthquake in several ways. Never before had so many immigrants publicly presented themselves to support their rights.”
“We haven’t seen anything quite like that since,” Freeman added. “It will be interesting to see what happens this year.”
Actions planned for Monday are a direct response to President Donald Trump’s policies on labor and immigration, according to organizers. The main event is a rally and concert in Foley Square at 5:00 p.m., but the rest of the day will be busy as well, with actions, teach-ins and union rallies, starting as early as 7:15 a.m. Gothamist talked to organizers, who broke down their plans and provided tips for workers interested in striking, but fearful of employer retribution.
Marches and Rallies
Before the workday starts, Make the Road New York is hosting a march through Midtown East to call out large corporate entities that stand to profit from Trump’s agenda, including backers of private prisons and immigrant detention centers like JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Ahead of the action, Make the Road today launched a “name and shame” website, with information about each company’s affiliations to the Trump Administration and contact information for CEOs and Board Members.
7:15 a.m. / Sidewalk at 5th Avenue and 41st Street at the edge of Bryant Park
The Democratic Socialists of America are continuing to throw their (increasingly hefty) weight behind the employees of B&H, who recently organized a union in response to allegedly hazardous working conditions in their Brooklyn warehouses. Management has threatened to move these warehouse jobs 75 miles away to New Jersey, while organizers gear up their contract fight.
10:00 a.m. / B&H Photo Video Pro at 420 Ninth Avenue
Immigrant and worker justice groups including ICE-Free NYC and Brandworkers, which recently helped organize workers at Tom Cat Bakery in Long Island City, will rally in Washington Square Park ahead of a downtown walking tour of businesses where workers are currently organizing. “We have every intention of making sure that some of the practices and policies that impact the worker community are brought to light,” Brandworkers organizer Gabriel Morales told Gothamist. The tour route is still being solidified but will include a stop at Amy’s Bread, where employees have been organizing for higher wages.
12:00 p.m. / Washington Square Park
The main event. Make the Road New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, New York Nurses Association, New York Central Labor Council, and the service workers union SEIU 32 BJ are organizing the evening rally, which will double as a live concert. “We call on all New Yorkers to rise up and demand an end to this Administration’s racist and unjust policies,” said Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, in a statement.
5:00 p.m. / Foley Square
Striking: Know Your Rights
For those planning to strike from work or school on Monday, organizers with the People’s Power Assembly are rallying at Union Square from noon until 5:30, ahead of a large-scale march. “It’s very much going to be a place for people who are striking,” said group member Nate Peters. “That’s why it’s called for noon.” Organizers are punctuating the day with speeches, featuring leaders from the anti-war movement, Black Lives Matter, and indigenous groups, as well as labor and immigrant advocates.
Acknowledging the potential for repercussions, the Workers World Party has set up a phone line and email address for anyone facing threats and punishment for striking: 347-674-0515 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make the Road New York has also been hosting know-your-rights training sessions specifically for immigrants who want to strike. Their initiative launched in February, when a handful of Long Island warehouse employees were fired after participating in a “Day Without Immigrants” action. Make the Road is now representing those workers in a National Labor Relations Board filing that accuses their employer of violating the National Labor Relations Act.
Meg Fosque, an organizer with Make The Road, stressed that all workers have the right to strike, regardless of immigration status, though the repercussions for undocumented workers can be more serious. Fosque advised workers to give their bosses a heads-up, and to try to connect national May Day issues back to specific, concrete workplace demands. “If your workplace won’t function without immigrants,” she said, “maybe ask your employer to post a sign stating that ICE officials aren’t welcome without a judicial warrant.”
Some individuals participating in the strike are planning to call in sick or take a vacation day, she added. Fosque stressed that there is power in numbers, and that workers planning to strike en masse should contact labor organizers first, to talk strategy and potential legal issues.
“To see the most vulnerable workers take risks that more protected workers are afraid of is incredibly powerful,” she said.
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