May Day 2015
This past Friday marked May Day, the International Labor day. Across NYC rallies where held that featured organized labor, low wage workers, Anti Walmart workers, social justice and immigrant rights groups. Below is the press release from the NYC Central Labor Council AFL-CIO.
Labor Unions Stand with Low-Wage Workers, Anti-Walmart, Social Justice, and Immigration Groups for May Day Workers’ Rights Rally
New York, NY – Members of the Alliance for Labor Rights, Immigrant Rights, and Jobs for All today gathered in Manhattan for a May Day evening of action against attacks on jobs, social and economic justice, and immigrants’ rights. The group, comprised of members of organized labor, community and social justice organizations, and low-wage workers stood together to call for good union jobs, and the protection of economic and social rights for all.
The evening of action began outside of billionaire Walmart owner Alice Walton’s 60th St. and Park Ave. home, where workers left 8ft tall plungers to protest the company’s work to “flush away” jobs. Over the last few months, roughly 2,200 workers have lost their jobs because of store closings. The company claims that “plumbing issues” are responsible for the closures. Prior to the store closings, workers had begun demonstrating for better wages, protections, and respect on the job.
“This is a new low, even for Walmart,” said Venanzi Luna, an eight-year Walmart worker and long-time OUR Walmart member. “It’s just so heartless to put thousands of your employees out of a job with no clear explanation on just a few hours’ notice. We know that Walmart is scared of all we have accomplished as members of OUR Walmart so they’re targeting us. Through OUR Walmart, we’re going to keep fighting back until the company gives us our jobs back. It’s unfortunate that Walmart has chosen to hurt the lives of so many people, just to try to conceal their real motives of silencing workers just like they’ve always done.”
The march then headed across Central Park South to Columbus Circle, joining with horse carriage drivers at in Central Park, and members of LIUNA Local 78, who had been picketing outside of the Plaza Hotel. Upon arriving in Columbus Circle, an energetic rally was held, where attendees heard from labor leaders, workers, and community advocates.
1199 SIEU UHWE Secretary-Treasurer Maria Castaneda, who spoke about homecare workers who are fighting for safe staffing levels in nursing homes.
“Extreme income inequality is tearing at the very fabric of our city and our nation – undermining our economy and democracy. In 2014, Wall Street bankers gave themselves over $28 billion in bonuses, which would have been enough to lift all 1.5 million homecare workers up to $15 an hour for the entire year. Since the economy has rebounded, American workers are more productive than ever, but all the wealth creation has gone to the top 1%. It is a moral travesty for the United States, the richest country in the history of the world, to have people working full time and still struggling below the poverty line. This May Day, we are proclaiming that all work has dignity and importance, and we will continue to organize with our sisters and brothers in the labor and social justice movements until all working people have security and a better future.” George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
LaGuardia airport worker Megan Lopez addressed the crowd about her struggle for better wages, benefits, and respect. She was joined on stage by colleagues Esteban Ramirez and Azamet Soltanoff. All three of the workers are part of an Airport organizing campaign being headed up by 32BJ SEIU.
“Today the working men and women of New York City are joining workers around the world in a global call for justice and equality,” said 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa. “We are airport workers, fast food workers and other low-wage workers fighting for $15 and a union. We are families calling for immigration reform that allows us to stay together. We are communities calling for affordable housing and environmental justice. We fight for these rights on May Day and every day and still we rise.”
CWA Local 1180 President Arthur Cheliotes spoke about a recent victory, where his union won back pay for members thanks to a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling that Black and Latina women supervisors deserve to be paid the same as their male counterparts.
Event organizers highlighted the strong coalition as a testament to the strength of the labor movement, and the coalitions formed to help workers from all industries, backgrounds, and walks of life.
“The Annual May Day Event sponsored by the Alliance for Labor Rights, Immigrant Rights & Jobs for All symbolizes a united movement of labor, community, civil rights and religious organizations under the banner of ending income inequality,” said Sonia Ivany, NYC May Day Co-Chair and President Emeritus, NYC Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “It is one movement of public and private sector, building and construction trades, low wage and immigrant workers calling for the right of all workers to join unions, and for an end to the exploitation that forces millions of hard working families to still live in poverty devoid of labor rights. As we celebrate historic May Day we commit to winning immigration reform with a path to citizenship and civil and human rights for all in our state and in our nation.”
"We march and rally on this May Day, as will working people in over 150 other countries, as part of a tradition that began 129 years ago in Chicago when 60,000 workers marched on May 1st demanding an 8-hour work day,” said Kevin Lynch, NYC May Day Co-Chair, and an Executive Board member of the Left Labor Project.
"This year, we once again confront the 1% who own half the world's wealth and use it to buy elections, dominate the media and influence public policy. Together with Immigrant rights groups and community organizations, labor will march in solidarity with taxi and bus drivers, laborers and ironworkers, teachers, car washers, horse carriage drivers, nurses, home care workers, public employees and all the auto workers, machinists and others who jobs are threatened by the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership."
“On this May day while we commemorate the struggles of our forefathers, we also recommit ourselves to the fight for a more just society,” said Wilfredo Larancuent, NYC May Day Co-Chair, and Vice President of Workers United SEIU. “I believe we can end income inequality, I believe we can make Black and Brown lives matter and I believe we can achieve commonsense immigration reform. I believe if we fight, we can win.
Teamsters Joint Council 16 President spoke to the crowd about the importance of a unified labor movement.
"The Teamsters are proud to be here on May Day, standing with all workers, whether you have a union or are fighting to get a union. We have to be united, because big business is united against us. But it can’t stop at one day a year. Every day of the year, we should be working for a more just New York City."
Fight for $15 campaign member Michael Gonzalez spoke about his lack of financial security, and the importance of making higher wages and benefits to help his family.
"Working in fast food is like riding the crest of a wave," said Michael Gonzalez, a 26 year-old Wendy's employee who has to rely on food stamps and Medicaid to make ends meet. "My family and I live in constant fear— fear of eviction, fear of hunger, fear that the slightest change will put us all out on the street. That's why I'm out here today, and it's why I'll keep coming out — so that my kids can grow up knowing what security feels like."
RWDSU Recorder Joseph Dorismond introduced Queens car wash worker Hector Gomez, who spoke about the importance of workers standing together to organize.
“I’m proud to march with my brothers and sisters who work in retail and other service industries,” said Gomez, who works at the Sutphin Carwash. “We all put in long hours of hard work, and we deserve to earn a decent living. Car washes throughout the city are beginning to organize and win union contracts. We’re making progress, but we have to keep fighting.”
Zara worker Darren Frett spoke about the level of pay inequality between Zara owners and their employees. “I work for a corporation owned by the fourth richest person on the planet, and yet I’m struggling just to make ends meet,” said Frett, who works at the Bryant Park Zara store. “It was only after months of public actions that Zara workers in New York City stores were able to win modest wage increases. That’s why I’m here. When workers from all industries stand together, multibillion-dollar corporations can’t ignore our demands for better pay, fair schedules and a right to organize.”
Attendees vowed to continue to stand up for the rights of all working people in New York City, and around the world.
Today’s evening of action marks the Alliance for Labor Rights, Immigrant Rights, and Jobs for All’s sixth annual May Day action.