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FRSO hosts May Day panel in Utah

By Derek Clark

FRSO May Day event in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City, UT – Six speakers, along with about 40 workers, activists and community members, gathered for a panel discussion to recognize International Workers' Day, May 1. Hosted by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the panel covered a range of issues including working class and union struggles, the immigration struggle, immigration reform, the current state of imperialism and government corruption. Alyssa Faith moderated the event.

Heidi Belka, an IATSE Local 99 union member and organizer, discussed the importance of workers’ rights and of unions in the U.S. and Utah itself. She began her presentation by asking the audience to “create a buzz phrase that it’s legal to organize a union in Utah.” Belka emphasized that when workers vote against unions, “they vote against themselves.” She explained how to organize a union and gave her own personal experiences organizing for women’s and workers’ rights. “Unions raise the bar for everybody,” stated Belka.

John McCormick, a Salt Lake Community College professor and author of A History of Utah Radicalism, gave a brief history of the radical political movements in Utah. Utah has a long standing history of radical political movements. McCormick explained that he looks at the radical workers’ movements of the past in order to act on present and the future. McCormick explained that “the path out is a radical one.”

Agustin Diaz (Tino) brought great energy to the room by having the whole room join in a couple of chants. The group began chanting “No human is illegal!” and the United Farm Workers motto, “Sí, se puede!” Diaz is a Utah County activist with a history being involved with the immigration fight. He came to speak on the behalf of the Salt Lake City Dream team. Diaz brought to light the issues of exploited undocumented workers and the separations of families. He asked how we can build bridges and come together as workers, activists and immigrants. He said that the immigration struggle affects all of us, and is “a movement of many movements.”

Mark Alvarez, an immigration specialist and lawyer, spoke next. Alvarez worked for three years as the administrator of minority affairs for Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. He spoke on immigration reform and the difficulties that undocumented peoples face to getting citizenship in the U.S.

The next speaker was Gregory Lucero, member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and founder of the Revolutionary Student’s Union. He opened by giving everyone the common slogan of “serve the people.” He spoke of the many victories of workers’ movements, from the fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage in Seattle to the victories in Florida, stating ,“Today marks a victory in winning in state tuition for undocumented students in Florida.” Lucero also said, “We must struggle against imperialism. No corner of the globe is unaffected by monopoly capitalism, the U.S. doesn’t have the best interest of the world in mind. We must say no to U.S. intervention!”

Finally, the panel was closed with some words from Rocky Anderson. Anderson served two terms as the 33rd mayor of Salt Lake City from 2000 to 2008. He discussed numerous examples of government corruption and the desperate need for change. He talked about the domination of corporate interests, the lack of accountability of politicians and the high rate of incarcerations in this state and country. “The corporate state is monopoly capitalism made safe,” said Anderson, reminding attendees to “follow the money.”

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