On May 1, a crowd of about two hundred activists and workers gathered on Boston Common for May Day, also known as International Worker’s Day. The holiday honors workers and demands better working conditions, livable wages, and more workers’ rights.The Boston rally was organized by Boston Food for Activists, Cosecha Boston, Green Rainbow Party Boston, Bay State Red Sentinels, CPUSA Boston, Answer Coalition Boston, Boston Teachers Union, Boston Socialist Alternative Boston, and Boston May Day Coalition. The event was met with a group of less than a dozen white supremacist protesters, many of whom were masked and carried “don’t tread on me” and U.S. flags.
Speakers at the rally called for workers’ rights, especially for marginalized workers like immigrants, women, and sex workers. They also highlighted the recent teachers’ strikes in Arizona, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
“It’s very important that we get together on this day,” Dalia Llera, member of Cosecha Boston, told Spare Change News. “It’s interesting in the U.S. we don’t celebrate it in the way that other countries do, where workers are honored in a way that we’re not. It’s a way of workers coming together, celebrating them, and also to me it’s also very important in terms of supporting workers and unions and all of those people in need of basic human rights, basic working conditions.”
Llera said that Cosecha organizes for immigrant workers’ rights. “A lot of what Cosecha has been working on, and the ultimate goal of Cosecha is to get to the point where we could unite together the whole nation and other groups, unite all immigrants with a goal of a strike, general strike. This could take a lot of years but it’s building to show that we’re needed, we’re here, we’re staying, and that we’re strong and we have a very important place in this society,” she said.
Llera added that Cosecha is working on a campaign in Massachusetts to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
Rynn, a member of Boston Anarchist Black Cross, said that the labor movement needs to be led by working women. “Another thing we need to improve the conditions of the working class is to learn from working women,” she said. “Working black women can teach us all about what it means to live under the tyranny of capitalism.” According to a CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 26 percent of black people and 15 percent of Hispanic people said they felt that they had been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity at their place of work in the past 30 days.
Nino Brown, an anti-war activist, teacher, and member of the Boston Teachers’ Union, said that the U.S. doesn’t care about workers, choosing to prioritize military imperialism instead. “They don’t love workers, they don’t care about workers. We are the most dangerous military industrial complex in the world with Donald Trump at the helm,” he said. However, Brown said that it’s not just a Donald Trump problem. “It doesn’t matter who’s in charge of the killing machine. It’s a killing machine nonetheless. No matter who’s in charge of the deportation machine, it’s still a deportation machine nonetheless.”
Speaking about his teaching experience, Brown said he was appalled to have students who could not meet standard reading levels, a problem exacerbated by underfunded districts.
“Our brothers and sisters in [West Virginia], Oklahoma, all the places, all the so-called red states, the conservative states, we see that the working class, teachers, people who are entrusted to take care of the future, are on strike not because they don’t like education, not because they don’t like what they do, but because they are underfunded,” he said. “Like I said, I’m an anti-war activist and most of you know that Trump bombed Syria. All that money that was used to bomb should be used to support people’s lives. Books not bombs, education not occupation.”
Reverend Vernon K. Walker noted that while some progress has been made for workers’ rights in the U.S., many basic rights are still not met. “I stop by today because even though workers across various industries have made considerable progress, we still have some ways to go. I’m here today because anytime there are 40 million people that are living in poverty in the United States, there is a problem. Anytime 42 percent of the workforce make less than $15 an hour, there is a problem. Anytime someone who works a full-time job and works at least 40 hours a week cannot afford to pay groceries and utilities and rent, there is a problem,” Walker said.
However, Walker said that he hopes the labor movement can achieve workers’ liberation through unity.
“I know change comes historically when people get together, when the civil rights movement with [Martin Luther King] and Rosa Parks and all the civil rights fighters get together, we understand from history that change happened.”