Monday, May 4, 2009

MAY DAY IN MIAMI 2009

300 plus March through the Miami Financial District

Ray Phillips & Annie Fox

A day that many thought might never happen in Miami, Florida did as 300 plus marched through the very bastion of capitalism in Miami, Brickell Ave., the Financial District. With a banner “Bail Out People Not The Banks” leading the way and signs and banners that read everything from Capitalism Sucks, Support The Employee Free Chose Act to Legalization for Immigrants Now, worker and immigrants groups came together to bring the first progressive May Day in Miami in recent memory.

In a city that has not been very tolerant of anything even slightly to the left, we reestablished May Day as an American day for workers. To say it was a historic day would not be an understatement. Speakers represented Labor unions, immigration groups, political parties, peace originations and more. The rally was lead off by the Raging Grannies, who sang an original song on the Employee Free Chose Act. This was followed by a speech on the history of May Day and its base in workers’ struggles in the US in 1886. Fred Frost, Executive President of the South Florida AFL-CIO, spoke on the exploitation of workers, the need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. He also reminded us that we were rallying in the shadows of the 2003 FTAA protest. Immigrants reminded those who want to deport aliens that “No One Is Illegal” and addressed the hard work they do for low wages. Endorsing groups included such diverse organizations as Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, Inc. (FANM)/ Haitian Women of Miami, Centro de Orientaci├│n del Inmigrante (CODI), the Lake Worth Catholic Worker, Miami Veterans for Peace, St. Pete for Peace, the South Florida Reds and dozens of others. The unity of these diverse groups, with their diverse goals, really gelled when the march stepped off. The sea of multi-lingual signs and a lot of crimson t-shirts and flags certainly surprised bankers, investors, and other commuters during the evening rush hour. The echoing of workers’ chants through the cement and glass canyons of the Financial District challenged capitalism at its heart in South Florida.

The coming together of immigrant and other workers is what brought about those first May Day rallies in 1886. These workers, who were being exploited in sweatshops all around the US, were there to demand an 8 hour day. Despite the Haymarket Massacre, through unity, those who came before us prevailed. This is our history. We need to claim it, keep it, and continue it. May Day is eternal!