ImmigrationMilitant Journalism

Workers celebrate May Day across New England

Boston, Massachusetts: “Workers of the world, unite!”

Boston’s immigrant communities joined with organized labor on May Day in a militant, internationalist rally in the multinational neighborhood of Central Square in East Boston. Early in the day, feeder marches from nearby Everett and Chelsea paraded for miles to the rally site, while union carpenters built a huge stage for the speakers who would eventually address the crowd of close to 500 people. Many speakers called for international solidarity and decried the failing coup in Venezuela. The Party for Socialism and Liberation marched with a banner that read, “Hands off Venezuela!” and received many cries of support from attendees. Gerry Scoppettuolo, one of the banner holders, said:

“The showing today of Boston’s labor unions, in solidarity with the immigrant community and the caravanistas, is a blessing. Organized labor can create an initiative to not only stop Trump’s criminal coup attempt in Venezuela, but to oppose imperialism itself. The corporations that have crushed indigenous labor movements in Central and South America for over a century are the same ones that bust unions here in the U.S. But if we unite across borders we can win.”

Liberation Photo: Gerry Scoppettuolo
Liberation Photo: Gerry Scoppettuolo

Diverse contingents surrounded the square with many colorful banners representing La Commuidad inc., the Brazilian Women’s Group, the Chinese Progressive Association, the MA Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition and many more organizations.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1445 and UNITE HERE Local 26, celebrating recent local strikes and major contract victories over Stop & Shop and Marriott Hotels, brought out many of their multinational union members. They were joined by Teamsters Local 122, Carpenters Locals 327 and 723, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Boston Teachers Union Local 66, the Boston School Bus Drivers Union Local 8751, MassCOSH and the New England Regional Carpenters, who carried a banner which proclaimed: “Workers of the World Unite/¡Trabajadores del Mundo Unidos!

New Hampshire activists occupy governor’s office

On International Workers’ Day, in spite of the cold and a drizzle, close to 70 union, faith, and community leaders mobilized outside the State House in Concord, New Hampshire. Organizations such as the State Employees Association/Service Employees International Union Local 1984, New England Regional Council of Carpenters, National Education Association, American Friends Service Committee – NH Program, Unite Here, NH Council of Churches and the NH Poor People’s Campaign attended the rally. They held signs with slogans such as “Proud to Be Union”, “$7.25 an hour is a cruel joke” and “Faith and Labor Stand Together to Demand a Fair Contract for NH State Workers.” Speakers belted “Forward together, Not one step back!” and “God bless the revolution!” over the loudspeaker.

The action’s participants showed their collective support for NH SB151 (which would penalize employers for wage theft including the theft of workers’ compensation), a long-overdue raise in the minimum wage, family and medical leave, fair contracts for state workers and teachers, and the absolute de-funding of Immigration and Custom Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol. The crowd chanted “De-fund the Detention and Deportation Machine!” In a poignant speech NH’s NEA Communications Director reminded the mobilized crowd that “a teacher’s working conditions are their students’ learning conditions.”

Before the closing prayer for the event, longtime New Hampshire activist Arnie Alpert of AFSC and Unite Here gave a heartfelt eulogy of beloved fellow organizer Ken Roos who passed last July, and led the crowd in a rendition of “Joe Hill” in his honor. Liberation News was able to talk to those in the crowd who knew him best, all of whom described him as a “fighter.” Roos was the Vice President of his SEIU chapter and known for always carrying pro-worker, social justice signs in his car so he could stop and take part in any action he passed.

After the speakers finished and a closing prayer was given, a small but energized contingent of the crowd marched into the State House. The group was met with frightened looks from security guards in the hallway and briefly occupied Gov. Chris Sununu’s office in order to deliver a resolution demanding the Governor’s support and signature for a raise in the New Hampshire minimum wage.

Liberation Photo: Chris Marion
Liberation Photo: Chris Marion

Later in the day, outside of U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan’s Manchester office, Eva C. of the NH Alliance for Refugees and Immigrants told a crowd of 30 people, “We’ve been too nice. It’s time that we start escalating and teaching them [Democratic U.S. Senators] that they cannot take our votes for granted.” Singing “We Shall Not Be Moved” the crowd marched up to Hassan’s fourth-floor office to deliver a letter demanding she do everything in her power to “defund hate,” meaning not one penny for ICE and CBP. A staffer of Hassan’s read a prepared statement in response: “The senator believes that CBP and ICE have a range of critical responsibilities that include helping to secure our borders, prevent drug shipments and disrupt terrorist efforts to exploit our travel system and does not believe that we should defund these agencies”. This statement shows that Sen. Hassan, despite 43 percent of Democratic voters supporting the elimination of ICE and the CBP, will support the Trump regime in funding these fascist organizations.

The crowd then marched down the street to senator Jean Shaheen’s office to deliver the same set of demands and push to get on the senator’s recess schedule. The letter demanding that Sen. Shaheen refuse to vote for any budget that funds hate was read aloud to staff in the senator’s packed office. Energy in the room came to a crescendo with the whole group chanting “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, cause the power of the people don’t stop!”

Hartford, Connecticut: Justice for Anthony Vega and Wayzaro Walton!

In Hartford, over 200 workers took to the Federal Building on Main Street the location of Immigration and Customs Enforcement where they unfurled a massive wall made of paper, covered in art and phrases such as “equal pay for equal work”, “not 1+” and “por un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos”. The paper wall stretched the length of a large street block, encompassing the entire ICE building.

The rally was called by a coalition led by Unidad Latina en Accion. A large number of students represented the workers at Wesleyan University, who are frequently forced to skip lunch periods to clean the campus, are injured on the job, and are hospitalized due to work-related injuries. They demanded the school administration hire more cleaning staff to split up the work into manageable amounts.

Liberation photo.
Liberation photo.

PSL organizer Karleigh Chardonnay Merlot took the microphone to say that “the workers struggle has no borders, whether it’s on the streets in Wethersfield and Hamden, the steps of a people’s embassy in Washington, or whether its in Caracas.” She led the crowd in a chant of “no coup! No wall! Imperialism has to fall!”

Bishop John Selders of Moral Mondays CT noted that “the same kind of patrolling that happens on our southern borders is the same kind of patrolling that happens on the south end of this city”. He demanded justice for Anthony Vega, a recent victim of police brutality in Connecticut.

Ana Maria Rivera-Forastieri of the Immigrant Bail Fund called out Judge Michael Strauss, who posts the highest bail of any immigration judge in the country at $20,000. Tamika Ferguson stood to fight for her wife, Wayzaro Walton, who is currently detained by ICE, taken from her family and daughter. “I’m here to fight and be her voice,” she told Liberation News, “and to fight for every family that’s going through this horrible situation”.

The protesters symbolically tore apart the paper wall before marching through the streets of Hartford, demanding justice and chanting “No cops! No KKK! No fascist USA!”

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