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Minneapolis marches for immigrant and workers’ rights on May Day

By Montana Hirsch

International Workers Day march in Minneapolis.  | Fight Back! News/Brad Sigal

Minneapolis, MN – On May 1, over 500 people took to the streets on International Workers Day to march for immigrant and workers’ rights. The rally and march was organized by a coalition initiated by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) and MN Workers United (MWU).

Each year, International Workers Day is celebrated around the world with a call for solidarity with all workers and for union rights. International Workers Day has its origin in the fight for an eight-hour workday in the United States, where there were massive strikes and sharp confrontations in May of 1886.

The march began outside the former Minneapolis Third Precinct police building to support Twin Cities Coalition for Justice (TCC4J) and their fight for community control of the police. On May 1, they submitted petitions to the city of Minneapolis to put community control of the police on the ballot in November. The march continued to the Minneapolis Public Schools Center for Adult Learning to support Minneapolis educators in their battle for a just contract. It ended at the Smith Foundry to support the East Phillips community’s struggle to shut down polluting industries in this largely indigenous and immigrant working-class neighborhood.

An energized group of young people carried the lead banner with the rally’s six demands: legalization for all; community control of the police; end environmental racism and shut down Smith Foundry; divest Minnesota pensions from apartheid Israel; defend women’s and reproductive rights; pass the North Star Act; and support educators and fully fund public schools.

The action kicked off with a dance performance from Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue before launching into a full program of speakers highlighting the different demands of the march. Manuel Pascal from the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee said, “May 1 is a special day for immigrant rights. In 2006, all over this country, it was immigrants who took this day back. We are living in one of the most dangerous times in history to be an immigrant and we need to stand up and fight back.”

Eid Ali, the president of Minnesota Uber and Lyft Drivers Association (MULDA) spoke about their powerful and successful campaign to pass an ordinance in Minneapolis forcing rideshare corporations like Uber and Lyft to pay their drivers the equivalent of the city’s minimum wage of $15.57 per hour if they want to continue to operate in the city. MULDA continues fighting for a statewide minimum wage for rideshare drivers.

Ali stated, “Last year, despite our efforts, our bill to support a living wage for rideshare drivers was vetoed by the governor. Today we are back stronger than ever, pushing that bill through the state legislature with the support of powerful allies and unions. Today we march not just for the rights of rideshare drivers but for the rights of all workers, we march for those who are tall in shadows and in light whose hands build our cities and whose sweat waters the seeds of our progress, we march because injustice to one worker is injustice to all.”

As the march made its way up Lake Street, construction workers along the route joined in with chants and raised fists in solidarity as the crowd went by. Many people in the neighborhood cheered, chanted, and filmed as the energized crowd continued.

Marcia Howard, the first vice president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) Local 59 spoke to the crowd outside of an adult education center just after a tentative agreement was reached in the teacher chapter and a 92% “yes” strike vote had just taken place for the educational support professionals chapter: “All the way across the world, let them hear what we’re doing, This is about labor, every act of service, every day you clock in, every day you get up to do something that ain’t for you, for somebody else, that is labor. And this whole city, this whole nation would shut down if it wasn’t for you.”

Howard continued, “Let me tell you – we are going to continue to fight for our students!”

Sasmit Rahman, a member of University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society and one of the students who were arrested and subsequently banned from campus for demanding divestment from apartheid Israel, was the final speaker of the march. Ragnan stated, “The workers have been standing in unconditional solidarity with the students and with Palestine! We are all struggling against the same common enemy – it's the capitalists struggling to protect their class interests using the military and the police to protect U.S. imperialism around the globe. But when the people stand united there's not a power on earth, not even them, that can defeat us.”

The crowd also heard from speakers from the MN Anti-War Committee, the Climate Justice Committee, MN Workers United, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence and Twin Cities Coalition for Justice.

This year’s May 1 march was endorsed by 40-plus immigrant rights organizations, unions and social justice organizations.

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