En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Bushwick Courier
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

May Day March for Laborers' Rights

Hundreds of activists clothed in royal blue t-shirts or red
scarves and black jeans marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to join
several thousand New Yorkers demonstrating in Union Square on May Day
for immigrant rights, fair wages and equal funding for public education.

“This
is a good day to remember that most of the things we value in public
policy like minimum wage were won as a result of popular struggle,”
said Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of Make the Road New York.
“I’m happy to be here today continuing the tradition.”

Several
Brooklyn-based groups including Make the Road New York and the
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) met at Cadman Plaza last week to
peacefully demonstrate over a variety of labor-related issues as
two-dozen NYPD community affairs officers looked on. An international
workers holiday celebrated to commemorate the fight for the eight-hour
work day, the demonstrations have been shifting towards immigration
rights and fair wages campaigns in the past few years

“We’re
here today for equal rights for all workers and to organize,” said
Billy Randel, a truck driver and IWW representative. “The vitality of
immigrant workers is going to help us reclaim May Day as a labor
holiday.”

The
IWW’s membership consists of truck drivers and food industry workers,
particularly restaurants and wholesalers. In 2004, an IWW was organized
at Starbucks Coffee Shops in New York City, and several Starbucks
employees were present at the rally.

“We’re here for equal
rights for all people including immigrants,” said Daniel Gross, an IWW
representative and Starbucks employee.

Make the Road New York
has been participating in May Day demonstrations for the past nine
years. Its younger members said they were protesting to help immigrants
pursue educational opportunities and pressure elected officials to
create more opportunities for them.

“We’re here to help promote
the fact that immigrants, undocumented students deserve the right to go
to college,” said Adilka Pimentel, a youth organizer with Make the Road
and emcee for the Cadman Plaza rally.

Azeen Kermati, a Make the
Road school partnership coordinator
at the Pan American International
High School in Queens, observed a difference in the reactions to May
Day between the students who were children of immigrants or immigrants
themselves and those who are native-born.

“For the students and
teachers we have from Queens who are immigrants, it resonates a little
closer to home,” Kermati said. “May 1 is a huge international movement
for immigrant workers. To have something to identify with here is an
opportunity to really connect with people and show solidarity.”

Make
the Road
members hoped that the May Day march would draw attention to
issues regarding equal opportunity in education, reducing deportation,
and expanding the city budget for educational services. The members
urged Mayor Michael Bloomberg to restore funding for legal and
educational services in the city’s public schools and the leaders of
state colleges to charge in-state tuition for all students regardless
of their immigration status.

Nieves Padilla, an organizer with
Make the Road New York,
who has been running a fair wages campaign for
businesses on Knickerbocker Avenue, the march expressed the critical
importance of labor rights, regardless of where the workers are from.

“We
bring a benefit to the economy of this country and it is important that
all immigrants come together and fight for justice,” Padilla said. “We
need to stop the raids and deportations that destroy immigrant
families. We need respect for all.”