Immigration reform

Immigration reform is always the May Day rally theme in New York City. Pro-labor and pro-immigrant activists joined forces at NYC’s recent May Day rally at City Hall to the groove of Bob Marley’s  “Don’t worry about a thing.”  The refrain to that song “Every little thing gonna to be alright…” were words of hope that everybody could appreciate.

Labor and immigration activists join forces on stage at NYC City Hall, May Day event, 2013.

The festive demonstration to honor and support unions, workers and laborers was highlighted by a Broadway parade that started in midtown and ended at City Hall. Waves of New York’s labor force marched—several with their own marching bands. One group of Mexican workers featured traditional Mayan folk dances. At City Hall, a central stage was set for speakers amid heavy police presence.  Dolly Parton’s “9-5” was another anthem heard over loud speakers that produced impromptu jam sessions among the various groups.

Immigration activist at May Day rally at NYC City Hall, 2013.

Beside the immigration theme, an atmosphere of camaraderie and pride was visible on the rally signs and posters carried by affinity groups including Filipino health employees, Africans and Korean labor groups, and transit, carpenters, teachers and musicians unions and more.

The bipartisan immigration reform bill currently in the Senate has been called “unjust” plan by several participants because they said it leaves out too many immigrants and focuses too much on Mexico border issues.

Immigration activists show patriotism with flag at May Day rally.

“This bill represents a shift from family-based immigration policy to merit-based on skill and employment-based visas. Many of us could end up waiting 20 years for citizenship,” said an Asian activist. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for May 8.

The history of May Day or International Workers Day is a commemoration of four anarchists, (as trade union organizers were called) who were framed and executed in Chicago in 1886 for demanding an 8-hour day. Over 400,000 laborers went out on strike. Shortly after, the American Federation of Labor adopted the 8-hour workday.

Carpenters’ union members proudly pose together at May Day rally, 2013.