Over 40 cars gathered in a North Long Beach parking lot the morning of Saturday, May 1 for a May Day caravan protest.
May Day has been a time to celebrate the cause of workers’ rights since the late 1800s. May 1, 1886 marks the day the Federation of Organized Trades and Labour Unions of the United States and Canada decided on an eight-hour work day. The decision led to violent altercations between strikers and police in Chicago in the following days with fatalities on both sides, now known as the Haymarket Affair.
This year the annual protest focused on the intersection between worker rights and immigrant rights, with the more than 20 different groups belonging to the May Day Long Beach Coalition uniting under the slogan “Community Not Cages.”
The slogan was in reference to the new facility at the Long Beach Convention Center where immigrant children are kept in federal custody.
Among the demands of local organizers is that these children be released to their families and sponsors within five to seven days of arriving.
Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition community organizer Carina Rodriguez condemned the City and federal government for their lack of transparency.
“The first group of kids arrived 11 days ago. How many have been reunified?” Rodriguez asked.
After using markers and banners to decorate their cars with different phrases, including “No Detention Of Children,” “Free Them All,” “Worker Rights Are Human Rights,” and more, the caravan circled the parking lot of the Food 4 Less on South Street before heading into North Long Beach neighborhoods.
The caravan beeped their horns repeatedly, bringing local residents out onto their lawns and to their doors and windows to see what was happening.
Protesters encountered mixed reactions, with many residents of the neighborhood putting their fists up in solidarity, while some yelled and cursed at the caravan to quiet down.
After driving through the neighborhood, protesters gathered together at Houghton Park in North Long Beach to hear speeches by organizers belonging to the May Day Long Beach Coalition.
Audrina Redmond of Black Lives Matter Long Beach, which is part of the May Day Long Beach Coalition, told a crowd gathered at Houghton Park that worker rights have always been intertwined with immigrant rights.
She mentioned historical examples such as the Chinese immigrants that built US railways, as well as the Bracero Program which brought Mexican laborers to work in agricultural roles in the US. Both groups faced mistreatment and low wages while working in the US, and were not granted the same rights as white American workers.
“May Day is a time to honor our ancestors who fought for us, who were mistreated for us, but who survived, and that’s why we’re here today,” Redmond told the crowd.
Redmond also discussed the complicated role of unions in society. While many unions have historically contributed to racism in the United States, others have a long history of promoting racial equality. Redmond promoted the idea of “social justice unionism,” in which unions advocate for causes relevant to equity in their communities and society overall.
“The role of unions is not just to fight for their union members but to be active participants in the communities in which they live. And that’s called social justice unionism,” Redmond said.
Redmond told the crowd that she works for the California Faculty Association, a social justice union that also belongs to the May Day Long Beach Coalition.
Redmond also made a distinction between labor unions and police unions.
“They call themselves unions, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Police Officers Association, and in some cases they even belong to the County Federation of Labor, which is sort of the umbrella under which a lot of us fall. But they are not unions. They are not unions. They are not in solidarity with us, and so we want to kick them out of the House of Labor.”
International solidarity among workers was also discussed during the speeches in Houghton Park. Jazlyn Tabar of Anakbayan Long Beach spoke on the plight of Filipino workers both in the Philippines and in the United States.
Tabar mentioned specific instances of union leaders in the Philippines being the victims of extrajudicial killings, including the murder of Dandy Miguel, vice chairperson of the union PAMANTIK-Kilusang Mayo Uno in March 2021. Fascism under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte has led to an increase in assassinations that the police and military are often complicit in.
“We are angry that every day millions of workers are losing their jobs, they are struggling to meet a living wage, they are forced under unsafe, unfair and abusive working conditions,” Tabar told the crowd. “And when these same workers are united in struggles, they’re organizing and building unions, they are constantly met with repression and violence.”