US May Day demonstrations push worker-immigrant rights

Mostly peaceful demonstrations demand wage increases, benefits

Andy Roesgen   | 02.05.2021
US May Day demonstrations push worker-immigrant rights BLM protesters and workers are gathered at the New York Public Library - Stephen A. Schwarzman Building and take streets to mark International Labor Day in New York City, United States on May 1, 2021. ( Tayfun Coşkun - Anadolu Agency )

CHICAGO, United States 

Thousands of Americans took to the streets on Saturday in annual May Day marches to draw attention to the rights of workers, particularly immigrants.

In downtown Chicago, thousands marched during an unusually warm May Day, in what was at times, a festive atmosphere with music and drum beating.

But the message was unmistakable. Marchers promoted the power of unions and denounced the practice of using immigrants, especially those from Mexico, as cheap labor.

They demanded Congress support a bill from a Chicago representative called the American Right 2 Family Act, which would give legal protection to millions of undocumented essential workers and provide a pathway for deportees to return home.

In New York, thousands also took to the streets and were focused on a large laundry service in the city, Liox Cleaners. Six female immigrant employees at the company say they tried to form a union in March but were subsequently fired.

On Sunday, demonstrators cried "shame" at Liox's CEO and demanded the workers be re-hired.

Unions have grown in popularity in recent years, particularly during the economic downturn of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chicago was the birthplace of the International Workers' Day, or "May Day," which was borne out of labor-related violence that erupted in the city's Haymarket Square in 1886. The uprising led to a national strike organized in the US to promote an eight-hour workday.

Chicago's May Day march coincided with a march to protest two recent police shooting deaths of Latino residents.

Anthony Alvarez, 22, and Adam Toledo, 13, were killed during separate foot pursuits in recent weeks.

The shootings were caught on police body camera video in horrifying detail and released to the public. The city said it working with police to modify foot-pursuit policies.

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