May 1st, International Workers Day


Over the last couple of years the Latino community in the Twin Cities has decided to go to the streets and celebrate May 1st by demonstrating against Immigration raids, deportations and other actions used by federal agencies to remove undocumented immigrants from the country. Some of them have been using the date as a resource to demand an immigration reform and the recognition of undocumented workers’ rights as part of the rights of any worker in the country. And though this day has been chosen to celebrate immigration and its benefits, it is important that we remember what May 1st is about and what we can do to connect with the workers’ rights movements all over the world.

Editor’s note: Immigration March on International Workers Day
Thursday, 5/1, 2:00 p.m.
Corner of Kellogg and Robert, St. Paul — marching to State Capitol
Info: 651-389-9174.

May 1st was chosen to commemorate the struggle of the Chicago Martyrs, a group of workers that in 1886 died on May 1st, during a demonstration to demand 8 hours work days.

Later, in 1889, the first International Congress of the Workers took place in Paris and hundreds of representatives of workers from countries from all over the world decided to create the International Second, an organization devoted to fight for workers’ rights and the recognition of the struggle. It was during that meeting, that the French delegation proposed the creation of a day to celebrate workers and May 1st was approved, unanimously, as that day. Since then, workers from different countries have been remembering the date the Chicago Martyrs died and have been raising their demands and concerns through demonstrations and other activities. May 1st has been adopted, world wide, as Workers’ Day, except in the US, where it is celebrated during Labor Day –on the first Monday of September-.

It’s been more than an hundred years since the day was adopted and though 8 hours workdays have been adopted in almost every country, hundreds of workers are still dying every year. Some of them as victims of accidents in meat packers in south Minnesota, others during the harvest, in the fields, and others, falling from skyscrapers in downtown Minneapolis. The truth is that even though the rights of the workers have been recognized and accepted, workers all over the country are still being exploited and forced to work under unsafe conditions and longer hours, without the right over time and paid under minimum wage by heartless employers.

On May 1st we’ll see workers from the U of M demanding better working conditions. We’ll see security officers demanding fair wages and better working conditions; we’ll see hundreds of workers demanding dignity and respect to the jobs they do; and we’ll see terminated workers from D’amico and Sons demanding restitution after being fired under what they call “unfair” reasons.

Still, we need to ask ourselves, is this only a movement of the workers or is this movement of the immigrants? Because May 1st is the perfect opportunity to create a lasting bond between workers from all races, from all nationalities and all genders. May 1st is the perfect opportunity to unite our efforts and build together a better future for all workers, including immigrants. There are many ways to participate of this celebration but we most remember that the goal should always be solidarity and union among us all, workers from all ethnicities, countries and conditions.

May 1st is the perfect opportunity to initiate a constructive dialog with our fellow workers –Whites, African Americans, Asian and Latinos-, because we all belong to the same race, the workers race.

Yes, we may be immigrants and we may be an ethnic minority, but we need to recognize that we are not alone in the fight and that, at the end, employers and monetary interest don’t care about race or language, they care about profit and profit is built by workers.

Mariano Espinoza is Executive Director of the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network