San Jose, CA – Colorful waves rippled across Roosevelt Park in San Jose at 3 p.m. on a windy Monday afternoon, May 1. Flags were held high by workers in celebration of May Day, raising the demands “Unions for all; justice for fast food workers; si se puede; legalization for all, and Black lives matter.”
Around 300 people, including leftist organizations, trade unions, grassroots, national liberation groups, families, and comrades, gathered in firm unity around a stage to kick off the event. The popular trade anthem resonated through the park as the crowd sang Solidarity Forever.
The event began with a land acknowledgment by the Tribal Youth Ambassadors and children of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, reminding everyone to ground themselves and recognize that the first people are still alive and thriving.
Sharat Lin, a well-known organizer in San Jose, took stage next to provide context on the history of May Day as an event born out of the struggle for the eight-hour workday in the United States. Lin emphasized the need for continued struggle, alluding to the more recent revival of May Day spurred by the 2006 threat of HR 4227 for undocumented people.
Other event organizers and speakers reiterated the urgency of our struggle through the particularities of their work circumstances.
Ingrid Velorio, a fast-food worker with the workers’ rights group “Fight for $15” stressed the importance of California’s Assembly Bill 257, a bill to standardize wages and hours for fast-food workers.
Rudy Ortega, who holds five gig jobs and still suffers houselessness, shed light on one of the hidden crises of the pandemic, stating, “Most people don’t know we saw a 25% increase in homelessness.” He then highlighted the critical struggle of gig workers, pointing out that as independent contractors, they are not allowed to unionize, which leaves them without benefits and stable pay.
Organizer for Starbucks United Adita La Faz demonstrated the inextricable ties of workers’ struggles and immigrant rights based on her personal experience, stating, “I am a child of two Mexican migrants. Starbucks recently came out with statistics of their workers, and 53% of us are POC – meaning many of us are separated from or homelands and forced to become workers here in the U.S. The economic and political instability that the U.S. seeps through the Mexican borderline is characterized by unfair trade agreements, repressive policies, state corruption, and lack of employment which forced my parents and many other migrants to come to California.”
Joe Suarez, a UPS driver and Teamsters representative, rallied the crowd as he mentioned the upcoming expiration of their bargaining agreement stating, “Teamsters are going to show big corporation that the workers hold all the power. Remember, there is no such thing as unskilled labor – unions for all!”
After the gathering, the crowd flooded the streets via Paseo de San Antonio, headed towards Cesar Chavez Plaza, a focal point for community events.
The march was thrilling. Chants echoed down the line. Low-riders followed the already dazzling procession and so did the police.
Upon reaching Cesar Chavez Plaza, more cultural performances were presented while tents set up by community organizations shared food, beverages, educational material and artwork. A final commendation was given to everyone in the San Jose May Day coalition, including FRSO, SVUC, Malaya South Bay, PSL, South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, San Jose Peace and Justice Center, Amigos de Guadalupe, Community Health Partnership, SEIU, Working Partnerships USA, and more.