San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Workers support union bill in march on ‘real Labor Day’
A crowd of several hundred union workers and supporters marched up San Francisco’s Market Street on Saturday morning to support prounion legislation in Congress and celebrate what they called “the real Labor Day” — May 1 or May Day.
Marchers, led by civil rights activist Angela Davis and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union drill team, gathered in front of the Ferry Building and walked up Market Street to Civic Center Plaza. Dressed in colorful union shirts, carrying banners for labor unions as familiar as the Teamsters and as little known as the Theatrical Stage Employees Union, they marched, six or seven abreast in a line that stretched about five blocks.
As they marched, groups of drummers banged out a beat, occasionally joined by a tuba player as the stream of union supporters chanted “Let’s go, labor” and “Stand up, fight back.” While May 1 — or May Day — is a celebration of spring in many places, and a demonstration of military might in some nations, it is also known around the world as International Workers Day, a high holy day for the labor movement. In many countries it’s called Labor Day.
In the U.S., it recognizes the Haymarket Incident, an 1886 rally that turned into a riot and helped lead to the eighthour work day.
“We’re here to support workers and the historical significance of the real Labor Day — May Day,” said Ashley Mates, a union representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Aside from celebrating the labor movement, the marchers were also urging the passage of the PRO Act, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, prounion legislation that’s stalled in Congress. The bill would enhance penalties against employers who interfere in union organizing campaigns and make it easier for labor unions to organize workers. Supported by President Biden, the PRO Act is a top priority of organized labor.
Labor unions are still stinging over their failed attempt to organize an Amazon plant in Alabama, and are critical of labor laws they say gave the company an unfair advantage over the union.
“We have to protect the right to organize,” Davis said at a rally in Civic Center Plaza after the march up Market. “Pass the PRO Act.”
Others had their own agendas: support for beleaguered postal processing workers, increasing the number of transit operators being rehired as the economy recovers, fighting for health care for hospitality workers who lost their health insurance when their hours were cut during the pandemic.
Other participants said they were there in a spirit of solidarity — not just for workers but to show support for Black Lives Matter, for efforts to combat antiAsian violence and to eliminate police brutality and reform policing.
“We’re here in support of not only Black lives and Asian lives but workers’ lives,” said John Varga, a member of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which represents public sector engineers.
Frances Hsieh a vice president with the IFPTE’s San Francisco local, said this May Day was an opportunity for labor to show its support for Black, Asian and other disenfranchised communities, including those that have suffered from a growing economic gap, particularly during the pandemic. California’s unemployment rate was 8.5% in February, about double what it was 12 months earlier.
“We’re not just city employees,” she said. “We live here, we work here and we are community members. Especially when we’re coming out from under four years of attack, it’s important to show our solidarity.”
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, May Day events were planned in Oakland, San Rafael, Livermore and Fairfield. Other prolabor actions, both live and virtual, were expected to take place in Sacramento, Los Angeles and other California cities.