By Sheri Williams
More than 500 union members and activists came together to celebrate International Workers’ Memorial Day on May 1 with a march on the Capitol.
The mix of groups – led by unions – represented people concerned about workers’ rights, immigration, the economy, healthcare and other social issues under attack by the federal government.
“This is a day we are honoring Labor and workers across the world,” SEIU 1000’s Margarita Maldonado told media. Maldonado is also president of the Sacramento Central Labor Council. “We represent the people. We know what we have to do to make things better and we’re going to continue to fight.”
Rosalina Garcia of United Service Workers West also spoke to media and the audience gathered at the steps of the statehouse. Garcia talked about the fear many immigrant families are facing as the administration of President Donald Trump broadens the powers of deportation authorities.
Garcia said that many parents, even in Sacramento, are afraid to bring their children to school or go to work for fear ICE agents are waiting.
“The current presidency has managed to create panic in our immigrant community,” Garcia told media.
Sacramento Central Labor Council Executive Director Fabrizio Sasso said that May Day had special importance this year in light of federal actions against workers and families.
Sasso said he has witnessed protesters from diverse groups coming together to resist federal policies and show unity across causes.
“Whether it’s immigration, healthcare or protections for workers, we all understand that we’re stronger together and we need to be united here in California to make our voices as powerful as possible,” said Sasso. “This is a fight. I don’t know if it will last four years or not, but I know we are in it together.”
The city of Sacramento also in May addressed the immigration crackdown by strengthening its Sanctuary City ordinance and creating a legal defense fund for immigrants facing legal action.
That fund will have $300,000 to pay for education and law clinics.
According to media reports, nearly 50,000 people in Sacramento are not documented residents. That includes more than 4,000 children.
The city plans on starting the Sacramento Family Unity, Educations and Legal Network for Immigrants, or FUEL. It will be a group local immigration attorneys, nonprofits that assist immigrants and law schools that understand immigration issues.
“It is a modest investment, but it is a very important investment,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg told media. “It says very clearly to our community, especially those who are affected by these unconstitutional orders, that we are going to stand with you.”
May Day is an annual celebration of workers’ rights that first became a union rallying point in the 1880s. It is celebrated globally, and events this year took place in London, Paris, Moscow and hundreds of other cities.
While the Sacramento event was peaceful, union members in other cities faced violence and arrest.
The New York Times reported that about 70 people were detained by authorities as they attempted march to Taksim Square in central Istanbul, where May Day events are illegal under the authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The protesters were demanding improved pay and working conditions.
Protesters also clashed with police in Paris and Indonesia.
The Sacramento Central Labor Council also sent a delegation of local labor leaders to Cuba for May Day – the second year the trip has taken place.