May Day Draws Mass March in Manhattan

            NEW YORK –Thousands of workers and community activists thronged lower Manhattan on May Day, the international workers holiday, in a mass march for raising the minimum wage, backing municipal workers, opposing private firms running public schools and for comprehensive immigration reform, among other causes.

The march, organized by AFSCME District Council 37, the state and city labor federations, the Service Employees, an AFT local, Labor’s Council for Latin American Advancement and others, drew top unionists to the podium outside City Hall.  Marchers then descended on Wall Street.  Before the afternoon rally, there was a detour to protest a non-union contractor who runs a hazardous construction site.

The New York march was the most prominent May Day observance in the U.S.  Other marches occurred worldwide, as workers took to the streets of major cities for causes ranging from living wages and anti-austerity to union rights to democracy.

“The most powerful way for working men and women to improve their lives is by joining together and raising their voices as one,” said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.  “That is the spirit of May Day, and that is why union members, immigrant activists and community leaders came together on May 1 to fight for worker rights, comprehensive immigration reform, and the vital services all New Yorkers rely on.”

“The city’s labor movement is a microcosm of our larger society, representing workers from all cultures and economic backgrounds, who are standing up for the issues that affect all,” added city Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez.  “The fight for better wages isn’t just for low-wage workers, just like the fight for a path to citizenship doesn’t only concern immigrant workers.  On May Day and every day, we must band together for justice for all working men and women.”

“We watch increasing income inequality, increases in poverty, and a corporate class that has yet to face the consequences of the financial meltdown of a few years ago,” declared Wilfredo Larancuent of Workers United, an SEIU sector.  “We also see a resurgence of workers’ struggles for a better life.  Low-wage workers, fast-food workers, laundry workers, and others are on the move.  A better life is possible, if we fight for it.”

“The labor movement is strongest when we live out the values of May Day: International workers’ solidarity, unity across differences of race, religion, and nationality, commitment to a shared struggle,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York, the AFT affiliate.

“A century ago, workers acting as one on these values won the 8-hour day, the weekend, and the minimum wage.  This May Day, we’re honoring their struggle and standing together for our own demands.  We’re marching together for a more equitable city, a just immigration policy, fair contracts and fair wages for all working people — and support for CUNY’s own low-wage workers, the adjunct faculty.”