by James Lonsdale
Every year on May 1, millions of people celebrate International Workers’ Day, marching and holding rallies celebrating workers and organized labor, and the building of a better life for ourselves, our families, and our communities. Historically less well-known in the United States than Labor Day (which was created as a deliberate competitor to the “socialistic” May 1 holiday during the red scares of the 1890’s), the holiday has become more widely recognized and celebrated in the last decade as rank-and-file workers have begun to reclaim control of the labor movement.
Here in the Twin Cities, a dozen-odd members of our AFSCME local attended a rally May 1 on East Lake Street along with a few hundred other workers, their families, and supporters. We listened to some speeches highlighting the particular difficulties that immigrant workers face and celebrating the passage of the Driver’s Licenses For All bill (which allows all Minnesota residents to obtain a standard driver’s license, regardless of immigration status). Then we marched down Lake St. and Cedar Ave. to the Roof Depot site, chanting, collecting solidarity honks from passing drivers, and exchanging greetings with a school bus full of children.
I particularly enjoy this rally as a gathering of the unions of the Twin Cities metro. Not only did we get to see and talk to members of other AFSCME locals, like our siblings in local 34 (Hennepin County Social Services) and local 3800 (University of Minnesota Clerical), but we also saw folks from SEIU, MFT & ESP, OPEIU, ATU, and others, all wearing their colors and flying their flags and banners. It’s invigorating and inspiring to take part in, a reminder that we’re part of a broader movement made up of people from all walks of life, united by our belief that, as the chant goes, “a better world is possible.”