We should be demanding a 6-hour day at least, and for the minimum wage to cover basic expenses. After decades of fighting, New Deal signed the 8-hour day into law in the US, which was about 80 years ago. But the current form of capitalism is far from New Deal policies, and workers today have to fight for the right to work, to get paid, and not to be deported, not to go to work intimidated.
I'm on a student visa, and who knows where I'll end up once I'm on the global academic job market. I go to May 1st marches out of solidarity.
This year I was sitting on some bleachers behind a softball field in Union Park early, as marchers were gathering in smaller or larger groups. I sat there for about an hour and 45 minutes soaking up the sun, and got a nice tan on my face, but none of my friends showed up, not even Nick, who was supposed to get there "early." Still, he was nice enough to send the little report I'm including in this post.
Demonstrations here are part-class-part-ethnic-identity-based: the large majority of marchers are Latino workers, and prominent are groups drawing on Native American aspects of their heritage. Most messages are symbolic: "we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us." There is the demand for amnesty for immigrant workers, which is great, but as far as I know it's not backed up, say, by the threat of the general strike in which immigrant and non-immigrant workers in all branches of production would participate. That threat would be untenable, because there is not enough solidarity on the part of non-immigrant workers. And so on, and so forth.
I have to say I didn't feel all that revolutionary that day, but rather distracted and kind of lonely-in-the-crowd. Still, I marched with everybody along Washington, from Union Park to Morgan St (about 20 minutes?), at which point I slipped out of the march and rode my bike to UIC to attend my last writing workshop of the semester.
Well, onward! I'll be there next year for sure.
Here is Nick's account:
"I entered my friends' apartment fairly distracted by the fact that my girlfriend was waiting for me and every passing second was launching me deeper into the dog house. Pajamas hung off Andy and Marybelle as they groggily rolled a blunt and slowly got ready for the march. 'It won't be as big this year, but I'm glad we are going,' Andy said in scratchy voice with a mouth full of smoke. We finished the blunt and started the four-block walk to the pink line. Rosa called and asked if we wanted a ride and we accepted. As we waited for her in front of one of the many corner marts in Pilsen, Sneza called to call us hypocrites for being late. I chewed on her comments in silence as Rosa pulled up in the jeep and took us to Union Park.
"The park was lined with flag and food vendors as the crowd flowed downtown. I got a little pissed that the attendance was half the amount of people from last year, but the amount of people selling shit seemed to double. It was as if people making a buck off of the whole march could be passed of as support. We walked the path as angry Chicagoans blared their horns at us. I was distracted by my angry girlfriend and without realizing it I walked ahead of everyone else and lost the group I was there with.
"The booming drums of the native dancers bounced off the skyscrapers as we marched to Daley Plaza. The smiling faces of proud Pilsenites accompanied by other organizations and supporters flooded the slim city streets. I felt proud to be showing my support for people whose voices are too often unheard. I was interviewed by a couple of film students as the day went on. I'm guessing it was cause of my large sign that read 'America has always had an immigrant problem, just ask the Indians.'
"As we arrived in Daley Plaza I regrouped with Andy, Maribelle, and Rosa. People gave speeches in-between musical performances from Tom Morello and Ben Gibbard. The mayor (fucking asshole) also gave a speech but was met with loud booing. He stepped to the side as the crowd thinned out and returned to their respective city dwellings.
"'See you next year,' I thought as I chased down the torta lady who was now giving her delicious sandwiches away."