Happy International Workers Day 2011

May 1st - International Worker's Day

The struggle continues with yet another May 1st upon us. The impact of the financial crisis through mass lay offs and unemployment, foreclosures, service and education cuts, attacks on unions and a general move towards neo-liberal austerity is still being felt hard. As well, the total failure of much promised and hoped for immigration reform has become all too obvious. Let this be a day to renew our struggles to organize ourselves as a class and as oppressed peoples and carry forward our fight for a better world. It’s needed now more than ever.

Here’s a few retrospective pieces to put the moment into context. First is a brief article on the history of May Day and its significance, some retrospective thoughts on the 2009 May 1st protests as well as some analysis on the 2006 protests that started it all from Machete408.

Next are some thoughts on the San Jose march in 2009. These are criticisms raised by Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley Debug on the co-option of the march by institutional large non-profits and mainstream labor unions. I’m happy to saw the 2011 was of a very different character, less contrived, no directives on what flags or banners to hold, and an open mic where a diversity of speakers were allowed to speak. I think its worth looking back towards to answer the question of where is the movement at now?

The 2007 and 2008 marches were reunions of sorts, marches to honor and remember the history that was made in 2006, the largest mass marches in the history of the United States by a people who largely did not exist according to federal law.

The irony was that in an effort to reclaim that spirit of spontaneity that defined the 2006 march, every effort made by the large institutional organizations seemed more contrived and predictable. The first march, no one knew where it was going to end, or who was “leading” it. The route that was made in 2006, the same one we did yesterday, was created by walking it. It went from the immigrant Latino center in East San Jose, to the heart of civic power in downtown — City Hall. That route was made by children marching for their undocumented mothers, and was a social movement in a raw and profoundly inspiring form. Yet once organizations tried to organize the march, capture and direct the energy in 2007 and 2008, the march got deflated with route directors wearing matching armbands and politicians speaking on expensive stages. It resembled a parade, rather than a call to action.

Marches, Bosses, Workers, Foreclosures and Swine Flu

mayday2009.jpg may day 2009 picture by adam_freedom Once again San Jose led the Bay Area with the largest protest in Northern California for May 1, 2009.  While poor weather and swine flu scares turned many would-be marches away, many saw this years May Day immigrant rights march as the most spirited and significant since the massive march of 2006 when nearly 100,000 swelled the streets.

The day had a marked difference from previous the marches coming after 2006, as this year many of the more institutional organizations took a major step back in their involvement.  Reflecting on this is New American Media and Silicon Valley De-Bug commentator Raj Jayadev who wrote “The irony was that in an effort to reclaim that spirit of spontaneity that defined the 2006 march, every effort made by the large institutional organizations seemed more contrived and predictable [in the 2007 and 2008 marches].” He also gives his thoughts on the sense of fighting to win that was present with participants. (link)

To get a feel for the march, or maybe just to relive the the moment if you were there, check De-Bug’s video interviews of participants and photospread of the march here. One thing to note that I’ve heard from a couple of places is that in the media coverage of the march and the comments and signs of participants, there is a much higher emphisis on May Day, International Worker’s Day and worker issues than there an been in the past. Though of course the emphasis on immigrant rights has not been lost at all. A positive development without a doubt.

LoadLimit.jpg load limit picture by adam_freedom

Check out Pierce Artwork for an amazing and original collection of worker and labor related comics (featured above). A member of the IWW, Pierce offers a fresh, radical and often times subtly hilarous approach to themes relating to working class power. Comics are in English and Spanish as well as other languages.

vivalahuelga.jpg ufw strike picture by adam_freedom Speaking of labor, my recently posted  “Outline of US Labor History with a Focus on the Role of the Left” has been updated and expanded. The piece attempts to periodize the labor movement by decade, important organizations and broad trends. A particular focus is given on the role of the left and left organizations.

RepoTour.jpg Repo tour picture by adam_freedom Who pays the piper in the Obama administration? Well, rarely does the mainstream press lay it out so clearly:

“The Democratic-controlled Senate on Thursday defeated a plan to spare hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure through bankruptcy, a proposal that President Barack Obama embraced but did little to push through. … Obama had said [the proposal] was important to saving the economy and promised to push [it] through Congress. But facing stiff opposition from banks, Obama did little to pressure lawmakers who worried it would encourage bankruptcy filings and spike interest rates.” (Mercury News, May 1, 2009 link).

Meanwhile real estate agents have a “Repo Tour Home” service- a bus that drives potential clients around town to view recently reposessed homes- such as the one pictured above in Stockton, CA.

puerco.gif puerco picture by adam_freedom If you’ve had enough of the swine flu hysteria that has been gripping the media you’ll be glad to know that they seem to be shifting over to a fire burning the mansions of rich people in Santa Barbara and Obama and Biden’s lunch outings. But if you’re still hoping to laugh it off, you should try these videos: The new Swinewow super absorbent towel on Jimmy Kimmel Live and “La cancion del gripe marrano,” a song and dance video by a group of Mexico City musicians. English subtitles included.

Looking back at May 1st 2006

This was written during the movement of which later would become the 2006 immigrant rights movement. It was just beginning to peak in a series of large and mostly spontaneous marches that built up to May 1st, 2006. I think this lays down some of the optimism and worry that others and myself felt at that juncture.

 From Si Se Puede to Si Se Pudo

A Labor Organizer Looks at Changing a Moment into a Movement

Story Adam W.
Photos by Jessica Valdez

In this profound moment of world-wide doubt in leaders and governments, a wave of day laborers, cooks, janitors and high school students have suddenly become a powerful force bringing a new conversation to dinner tables and law makers across the nation.

This past week of marches and high school walkouts across San Jose in protest of HR 4437 was as beautiful as it was significant. Optimism was high returning from the March 25th journey across the city and back. The chant was no longer, Si se puede, but, Si se pudo or, Yes, we did it. Over the next week students made their own mark as they defied administrations, marching from school to school to spread their walkouts as well.

Less than a week later, another call is spreading by word of mouth and over the internet. May 1 st will be the next day of protest, boycotts and even worker strikes- a tradition called paros civicos in Mexico’s social movement. But as we ready for the next storm of protest, could the fire of the movement leave as quickly as the spark was lit?

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