Hundreds of labor rights advocates swarmed Washington Square Park for International Workers’ Day on Sunday, chanting and waving signs as they called for protections and a path to citizenship for immigrant workers.
The rally highlighted the importance of immigrant workers and the vital efforts they made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in New York’s darkest days. While others were able to shelter in place, advocates reminded the city that these workers were moving the Big Apple forward by delivering and cooking food, washing laundry and more, but their sacrifice did not was not immediately rewarded with pandemic relief until the Excluded Workers Fund passed (and still many have not received payments due to the sheer number of workers being left behind.)
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez kept a white carnation, a symbol of purity, as she stood up for immigrants, not just in New York, but across the country.
“We are here to fight for our workers because our workers are fighting for us, that is what this is about. We need to remind people, people in power and people across the country that workers are immigrants in New York and across the country. We must remember how far we have come and talk about what remains to be done. What we need to do before,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
At Washington Square Arch, hundreds of advocates, workers and supporters held signs reading “End Deportation”, “We are essential, not disposable” and “Our work has saved lives”.
Several workers spoke of their experience of immigrating from another country for a better life, only to face obstacles as they try to take care of themselves and their families, like Victor who is originally of Africa and is proud to call the United States his home.
“The United States is a country that is a home for the citizens of the world. We are the citizens of the world and, for immigration, we demand nothing less than citizenship. The path to citizenship is the right thing to do so that we can effectively contribute our quota to the development of the United States,” Victor said.
In addition to unnoticed immigrant contributions, workers spoke of the inability to speak out for change and protections due to fear of deportation.
Angelika, a member of the Amazon Labor Union, celebrated her union’s victory but also spoke out against the fear immigrants face when it comes to seeking protection.
“Amazon workers shouldn’t be afraid to ask for better working conditions because of their immigration status,” Angelika said.
Defenders exited Washington Square Park and crossed Lower Manhattan to Foley Square, stopping halfway to perform a “die-in,” where protesters lay down in the middle of a roadway to point out their importance to the communities of this country.
Senator Jessica Ramos, who has been a strong advocate for workers, said there is still work to be done, including passing Exclusion No More legislation that would provide immigrant workers with permanent protection (such as access to unemployment benefits). ).
“This May Day is perhaps one of the most important of my time in service to the labor movement. A multiracial and multiethnic groundswell is bringing May Day back to its roots: a recognition that all workers share a common cause. Our ability to gain recognition for excluded workers, win union elections where supposedly impossible, and unify organized labor around the unique struggles of immigrant workers is strengthened by recognizing that each worker has more in common with each other. other than themselves. do with the forces that keep their wages low and their hours long,” said Queens State Senator Jessica Ramos, chair of the New York State Senate Labor Committee.
The event culminated in Foley Square with a performance by La Manga Band.
Additional reporting by Adrian Childress.