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Know Your Rights
Source: Indypendent
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Make the Road, IWW Unite in Call for Immigrant and Workers’ Rights

Brooklyn, New York—Around 150
people marched across the Brooklyn
Bridge with Make the Road New York and the Industrial Workers of the World NYC Branch for a May
Day immigrant rights demonstration. Flanked by red and black Wobbly flags and
signs that read "Opportunity for Immigrant Workers," the demonstrators chanted
slogans like "Si se puede," and "El pueblo, unido, jamas tera vencido."

There was a
boisterous rally held before the march at Cadman
Plaza Park
in Brooklyn, with music, dancing and chanting.
One song’s lyrics, roughly translated, said "we will overcome misery" and
"we’ll have to break the chains."

should] have the same rights as any other working person," said Stephanie
Basile, a member of IWW, the radical Wobbly union that has been around since
1905. Basile emphasized that workers should have the right to unionize without
intimidation, and that deportations of immigrants must stop.

After the
rally ended, participants marched across the Brooklyn Bridge
pedestrian and bicyclist area with a police escort. The march ended with loud
chants outside of City Hall that translated to "Bloomberg, listen, we are in
the struggle." In front of City Hall were at least 10 police officers, ready
with nightsticks in hand for any disturbances. Make the Road NY provided transportation for the
protestors from City Hall to Union
Square, where a bigger rally for immigrant rights
was being held.

and working people are the backbone of the United States…At the end of the day,
we have to make sure that the politicians, the community and the United States
know that we’re still fighting for [immigrant and workers’ rights]," said Julissa Bisono, a worker organizer with Make the Road NY, a grassroots organization that advocates for low
income people and immigrants in New York City.

One young
intern for Make the Road NY,
Jefferson Lopez of Flatbush, spoke of the work that Make the Road NY has been doing to provide better health care for
immigrant communities. "They are helping immigrants in a way that no other
organization can help," said Lopez, 18. Make
the Road NY
, with other immigrant rights’ groups, were instrumental in
pushing for new state regulations that require hospitals to have translators
for people who can’t speak English.

The new
regulations, which took effect in September 2006, have improved health care
services to immigrant New Yorkers who don’t speak English as their first

The protestors
looked back in admiration at the May Day 2006 immigrant rights demonstrations,
where hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their supporters protested
anti-immigration laws and practices perpetrated by the federal government. The
emphasis on deportation in American immigration policy seems to have chilled
protests from immigrants, according to some activists.

to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in fiscal year 2007, over
200,000 undocumented immigrants were deported from the United States.

immigrants live in fear of deportation, and talk of their struggles against the
often racist and xenophobic political climate in the U.S.

Romero, a restaurant worker in NYC who carries carts and a member of the IWW
NYC branch for a year, spoke of discrimination in his workplace. "The manager
discriminates against Hispanic people…We’re in a struggle now, trying to
unionize in the workplace to be able to get better benefits and better working
conditions…[Because of the union struggle], we are now getting our holidays
paid, overtime paid and better wages," said Romero, through a translator.

demonstrators said they hoped the struggle for workers and immigrants would
continue after May Day.

"I think
the more people in the streets, the bigger the statement is. And that is
something that is missing in this country, people thinking and acknowledging
the fact that they do have power whether they know it or not," said Valerie
Carmel, a student and activist who participated in the protest.