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San Jose community marches on May Day

By David Almeida

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San Jose, CA – On May 1, about 400 people had gathered at Roosevelt Park in San Jose to celebrate International Workers Day. Many leftist organizations, trade unions, and grassroots organizations like Papeles Para Todos attended.

In the lead-up to the march, the action kicked off with a dance performance from Calpulli Tonalehqueh, an Aztec dance group. After this performance, a Muwekma Ohlone tribe member presented a land acknowledgment, ensuring that the people of San Jose understand they are on Muwekma Ohlone land.

Event organizers such as Nora Morales, a janitorial worker and member and leader of a local SEIU, spoke about the difficulties and struggles of workers, especially undocumented immigrant workers, over the last year, and throughout the pandemic, stating, “We are essential, resilient, empowered and skilled workers, who are the backbone of every company, and today we are here to celebrate us! Because without our hard work, corporations wouldn’t be able to function properly.”

Sharat Lin from the San Jose May Day Coalition made sure to remind the people of San Jose about the history of the May Day, connecting the struggles of immigrant workers in Chicago during the 1880s, to the struggles of immigrant workers in San Jose today. “On May 1, 2006, International Workers’ Day was reborn in America, when millions of people across the United States marched to protest HR 4337.” This bill would have further criminalized undocumented immigrants and further militarized the U.S.-Mexico border.

Lin also stated, “The nationwide protests effectively stopped the bill in its tracks. On that day, over a quarter million people marched here in San Jose.” San Jose has a large number of immigrants, many of them undocumented, from Latin America, especially Mexico and Central America; they constitute a large part of the core working class in the city.

This year, the city government of San Jose scheduled another event on May 1 which caused logistical issues for May Day organizers. In addition, this event, Viva La Calle, was sponsored by Google and Omidyar Network (a “philanthropic” firm that invests in news media). The city claimed it was an oversight mistake, but the SJ May Day Coalition, as well as the working people of San Jose, saw through their sorry excuses, knowing all too well, that the city government and Silicon Valley tech giants like Google were purposely trying to repress celebrations of International Workers’ Day.

Regardless, the working people were able to fight back and rightfully take back their holiday. Demonstrators took over half the street around 1 p.m., and began marching down Santa Clara Street, towards San Jose City Hall. Led by dancers from Calpulli Tonalehqueh, demonstrators marched behind them, drowning out the speaker systems from Viva La Calle. The chants, “When workers’ rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” and “El pueblo unido!” “Jamas sera vencido!” were heard all the way to city hall.

At city hall, all attending organizations gathered, as more cultural performances were given, and more community organizers spoke to the people of San Jose. Nancy Robles from the San Jose May Day Coalition and Party for Socialism and Liberation spoke to the needs of working people, and why socialism is necessary to ensure that the people’s needs are met. Papeles Para Todos (Citizenship For All) spoke about their current campaign to hold President Biden accountable, and demand citizenship for all undocumented immigrants in the United States and create a pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants. They also demand that migrant detention centers be closed, families no longer be separated, and are calling for equal citizenship rights for all.

Alexander Woolner, from Freedom Road Socialist Organization, who is also a Teamsters union member at UPS, spoke to the importance of labor organizing and the history of the labor movement in the fight for socialism, pointing out that while the trade union movement is at an all-time low, the American working class was faced with similar conditions almost a century ago, and made great strides. “Back then, a man named William Foster dedicated his life to trade union organizing, and I mention him because the organizers of the recent win at Amazon not only read one of his works, Organizing Methods in the Steel Industry, but studied it together and distributed it to workers.”

Woolner also mentioned the recent workers’ struggles with class-collaborationist union leadership in the Teamsters, mentioning the 2018 UPS sell-out that lost many benefits that were won during the 1997 strike, as well as the $4 pay cut earlier this year, which brought UPS wages in the area down from $21 an hour, to $17 an hour. Negotiations for the 2023 contract begin this August between UPS and the Teamsters union. “This will be an important fight, a Teamster win will mean better pay and benefits for UPS workers, and will demonstrate the value of having a union contract and inflame the current labor organizing drive on a larger scale rather than workplace by workplace.”

#SanJoséCA #MayDay #PeoplesStruggles