People Demonstrate for Worker, Immigrant rights on May Day

On May 1, International Workers Day, hundreds of people trekked for miles to advocate for the rights of immigrants and workers.

The  Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) led hundreds of protestors from Everett, Chelsea and East Boston on a march to Liberty Plaza, where they held a rally.

The collection of workers, immigrants, and members of numerous advocacy groups marched from Everett City Hall at 3:30pm, joined others from Chelsea City Hall at 4:00pm and proceeded to walk over the Andrew McArdle Bridge to Liberty Plaza in East Boston, where rally organizers waited for them.

At the rally protesters held signs and chanted, calling for the end of wage theft and worker abuse, protection of work safety and right to organize, protection of public education, protection of DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and local officials’ non-cooperation with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).

MassCOSH members urged demonstarters to persuade their government representatives to pass House Bill 3012 and Senate Bill 2061, the “Work and Family Mobility Act,” which would allow Massachusetts residents of any immigration status to apply for driver’s licenses.

Khalida Smalls, organizing director of Boston Teachers Union, collected signatures in support of a fair union contract, advocating specifically for a full-time nurse and counselor in every school, adequate staffing, and installation of more HUB community schools.

“We seem to be in a challenging position in every contract,” said Smalls. “Right now, it’s been a year [of negotiating], which is a little ridiculous. We need to put enough pressure to end this.”

Environmental justice advocacy groups, such as 350, partook in the rally as well. Members of 350, a volunteer organization, which advocates for a transition away from a fossil fuel driven economy, noted that addressing climate change was vital in ensuring workers’ and the broader communities’ health and longevity.

“Nobody else can do this work for us,” said Curt Newton, staff representative on MIT’s Climate Action Advisory Committee.

Hosted for two decades, the rally is the longest-standing immigrant-led May Day event, according to Milagros Barreto, Worker Center Organizer at MassCOSH. With dozens of partners and co-sponsors, the rally aims to address the broader goal of ending white supremacy and worker abuse.

“It’s unfair that workers get injured in workplace and are fired by the owners of the workplace, because they don’t have documents,” said Barreto. “I wanted to stand up for them.”

Al Vega, Director of Policy and Programs at MassCOSH, noted that this year’s rally was ever more important following the Trump administration’s decision to make cuts to the budget supporting the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) and in light of Governor Charlie Baker’s vetoing of bill 4024, which sought to ban some chemical flame retardants that caused cancer.

“[Government officials] think that people are protected in the workplace,” said Vega. “But year after year, we’re doing our annual worker memorial day event. This year we commemorated 70 workers who died on the job. All of them were preventable accidents.”

Immigrant workers like Carlos Lamus, who is currently unemployed, said that the climate of racism created by President Trump has been harmful to many immigrants, including himself.

“I don’t have a job, because of, you know, Donald Trump,” said Lamus. “Latinos, black, Chinese people… all of us are suffering because of racism.”

The rally continued till 6:30pm.

“No matter if we’re having our individual fights, in the end of the day, we’re all workers,” said Vega. “We’re all people and this is a day to elevate that the things that we deserve are things that everyone has access to. That’s why we march.”

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