May Day Celebrated in Chelsea with Calls for Immigration Reform, Higher Minimum Wage
Chelsea, Mass. - Highlighting ongoing immigration and labor issues, including the need for a path to citizenship and a higher minimum wage, Boston area activists celebrated International Workers' Day - better known as May Day - on Thursday.
Around 800 people took part in the event in the heart of Boston’s surrounding immigrant communities - with marches from East Boston, Everett and Revere to a rally at Chelsea City Hall.
The events were organized by the Chelsea Collaborative and supported by a large coalition of immigrant, labor, faith, and political organizations, including the AFL-CIO, Socialist Alternative, the United Steelworkers local 8571, and the Black Rose Anarchist Federation.
Speaking at the rally, the executive vice president of the national AFL-CIO Tefere Gebre said, “Today is International Workers Day … across the globe from London to Rio, to New Delhi to Addis Ababa, from Boston to Shanghai, workers are on the streets, workers are challenging power, and I’m proud you’re joining millions of workers across the globe to celebrate this day.
“Our country is the richest it has ever been in its history, but this economy is not working for all of us, cab drivers are suffering, domestic workers are suffering, immigrant workers are suffering, but we have the power within us to turn it around, on a daily basis we’re fighting for a fair and just economy, we are fighting for shared prosperity, and our fight begins today,” he continues.
He also said that the “senseless deportations” have to end, claiming that “11,000 families are torn apart every single day,” and that “70 children are placed in state care” daily “because their parents are deported.”
Andy Moxley, an organizer with the Socialist Alternative party and the 15 Now New England campaign, said, “working people need to take the power into their own lives, we need to break from the two parties of big business, and we really need to break with the systemic exploitation of capitalism ...
“And, that starts with organizing working people, people of color, immigrants, getting our own power in our own communities, and that’s why we came out today,” he continues.
Explaining that the 15 Now campaign originated in Seattle, he said that “$15 an hour with no exceptions, no phase out, no phase-ins … would send a really strong message not only to the establishment, but would be a huge boost of confidence for working people around the country, who since the economic crisis especially have been living on a budget of austerity, have been told we had to tighten our belts, we have to keep giving up while the rich have gotten bailouts …,” he continues.
Stevan Kirschbaum, chair of the grievance committee of United Steelworkers local 8571 and one of the union leaders fired by Veolia following a job action last October, said, “the bus drivers’ union has been a supporter of both the immigrant movement and May Day since our formation, so it’s a natural fit because it was the immigrant rights movement who reclaimed May Day in this country.”
He points out that the event “is an American holiday,” and said that “this is one of the few countries on the planet that doesn’t give it recognition, so we’re proud to be out here.”
According to Kirschbaum, “my union for example now is 85 to 95 per cent immigrant workers from Haiti, Cape Verde, Latin America, Central America; we are proud that we have been working with the Chelsea Collaborative, and the organizers of this event since their first event.”
Kathleen Smith of the Black Rose Anarchist Federation said, “I think we’re here for two reasons, and part of it is to celebrate both the long history of May Day and workers’ struggle, and also more recent struggles around May Day.
She said that the event is “a good chance” for different group with varying tactics “to come together, and talk to each other and celebrate the fact that we are surviving this struggle.”