By Sheri Williams
Celebrating the annual May Day march in Sacramento, hundreds of workers converged on the state Capitol to show solidarity and remind those in power that California unions are strong and united.
The march was part of hundreds that took place across the globe to protest inequality and celebrate working people on the International Workers Day.
The march was organized by the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement AFL-CIO, and included members of dozens of unions such as SEIU-USWW, UPTE, AFSCME, postal workers, teachers and many others. The Sacramento Central Labor Council also was present.
“This is our day, across the globe, not only to celebrate working people but to continue the fight for fair contracts, fair laws and equity and inclusion,” said Fabrizio Sasso, executive director of the SCLC. “Unity is our power, here in Sacramento and around the world and today is a reminder of that. In every country – France, Turkey, Russia, Cuba – you see workers on the streets today fighting for justice.”
The march took place this year against the growing discontent of workers over the consolidation of wealth in America and other countries.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addressed the issue last month in a speech at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.
“The rules of this economy are designed for the people at the top to do exceptionally well,” Trumpka said. “The people in the middle, not so much, and the people at the bottom, not so much.”
“We are out here marching out here on behalf of workers to keep Califonria families healty and to support families by sending a message to the governor that we are California strong,” said organizer Desiree Bates Rojas in a Facebook post while marching. “We have families who need a decent contract … look at all the people who showed up, came out and marched for democracy, for justice, for liberty.”
The march also highlighted the ongoing boycott of Driscoll’s. Workers from Mexico involved in that struggle were present, speaking about the years-long battle for fair and safe working conditions, including the health hazards of being exposed to pesticides.
Marchers went from West Sacramento across the I Street bridge and down Capitol Mall to reach the south steps of the Capitol, where more speakers reminded legislators that action must be taken to protect working people.
“There is more than enough to go around,” said activist Mackenzie Wilson. “This isn’t working. It hasn’t been working. They system is collapsing. They make money off of our sickness. They make money off of our displacement.”
International Workers Day is celebrated on May 1 in remembrance of the Haymarket riot in 1884. That year, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, which later became the American Federation of Labor, declared that the workday should be capped at eight hours. On May 1, workers across the United States, more than 300,000 in all, walked of their jobs in support of the idea. In Chicago, where the movement began, 40,000 workers went on strike. Violence broke out between police and strikers in the following days, with police firing on crowds killing at least two workers. On May 4 at Haymarket Square in Chicago, police killed at least eight workers. Someone threw a bomb at police, killing at least seven officers and four civilians. Eight labor leaders were arrested and tried, though none had been involved with the bombing. The Haymarket riots are considered a key moment in Labor history.