This weekend, Minneapolis celebrated the power of the people on International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day. Hundreds marched on the warmest, sunniest day of the year (so far) in solidarity with workers across the globe. The event, hosted by more than 30 immigrant rights organizations, labor unions, and community groups, saw demands for labor rights, police accountability, and immigration reform.
Marcia Howard, a member of Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59, spoke about community solidarity. George Floyd Square held a May Day Celebration on Sunday:
May 3rd marked the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week. The Saint Paul Federation of Educators Local 28 showed their appreciation for education and people power.
Outside of Midtown Global Market and the Allina Commons, an SEIU Healthcare union steward spoke about current efforts at the negotiation table with Allina Health. Allina first refused to reach a fair contract with healthcare workers, proposing a 0% pay increase. Workers announced an Unfair Labor Practice strike for May 10, but they rescinded the notice after a tentative agreement was reached with Allina on May 5.
Kieran Knutson and Communication Workers of America 7250 has been fighting job cuts, outsourcing, and union-busting. AT&T closed three retail stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area this spring.
The Downtown Workers’ Council has demanded quarantine pay, employer-provided PPE, and other worker protections. “We want the downtown sector to reopen safely for workers,” said marbella Herrera Villaneuva, a food service worker and member of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL) who is a leader with the Downtown Workers’ Council. “Our work deserves better pay. We are risking getting sick in order to be able to pay for food and rent. Workers deserve better.”
Troy Bowman, a janitor who works in downtown Minneapolis, is a member of Local SEIU 26. “In the last year I have had to quarantine two times, covering over 30 days, and I wasn’t paid for any of that time,” said Bowman. “I’m one of the people who has been called ‘essential’ during this pandemic, but I’m going to be honest with you that my experience has felt more like those in power view me as expendable. People like me never got to work from home…It’s time our city and state leaders pass COVID leave pay to help make sure all the frontline workers who have risked so much during this pandemic don’t also have to worry about paying our bills.”
Members of the Restaurant Opportunity Center of Minnesota (ROC Minnesota) have been organizing for fair wages and protections for workers in the food service industry during the pandemic. “When I was working in catering, there were times workers wouldn’t call in when they were sick because they needed to get paid,” said Biz Goldstein, a leader with ROC Minnesota. “I saw guests walking around with ties around their face instead of masks. If we didn’t come into work, we could risk losing unemployment benefits. People are working with their feet held to the fire.”
Many essential workers in the pandemic are immigrants who face risks because of citizenship status. Speakers from Asamblea de Derechos Civiles called for worker protections and reforms such as a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented workers.
Marchers held signs calling for climate justice as well as workers’ rights. The song No More Pipeline Blues (On This Land Where We Belong) played as rain sprinkled on the crowd. A water protector spoke about indigenous sovereignty and the sacredness of land and water.
Danzantes dancers kept rhythm with the drum beats.
Spoken word artist Brandyn Lee Tulloch read a poem titled “Amended” to the crowd. The poem touched on the emotions of being Black in the United States, and how the Constitution didn’t originally reflect equal rights for Black people.
The march paused outside of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fifth Precinct. Speakers demanded police accountability, justice for lives stolen, and systemic change ranging from community control of police to abolition.
The Civilian Police Accountability Commission, or CPAC, is an effort to establish community control over police backed by the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar.
”The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.” This quote can be attributed to August Spies, one of the anarchist organizers arrested, convicted, and hung for murder during the Haymarket Riot that May Day draws its origins from.
Yadhira Romero Martinez was a young worker recently found dead in Minneapolis at 19 years old. A suspect was charged with second-degree murder, and over $40,000 was raised in a GoFundMe for Martinez’s family. One comment from Robert Lynes on the page: ”My wife worked with Yadi at Walmart & described her as a quiet, hard working, beautiful young lady. I can only add “Vaya con Dios” Yadi.”