Are We United Today? Are We Committed Today?

 May Day Presentation at May 1 rally in Claremont.

By Jose Calderon

May Day Image

Artwork above by Rini Templeton

Let me ask you: Are We United Today? Are we committed today? Are we willing to make a long-term commitment today?

Today, we commemorate Lucy Gonzalez and her husband Albert Parsons who fought for the eight hour day back in the 1880’s. They were examples of commitment – are we committed today?

It is important to understand that today is May day, a holiday that began in the 1880’s in the U. S. – and is now commemorated all over the world – but was purposely excluded in the U. S. by the powers that be – for what it represents – a day to commemorate working people internationally.. Are we united today?

This day is historic – and commemorates the fight for an eight-hour work day back in the 1880’s – commemorates the killing of strikers by the police in the Chicago McCormick Reaper Workers factory – commemorates the mass demonstrations of workers in Chicago’s Haymarket Square to protest the killings of these strikers — and is a legacy for reflecting on the struggles and accomplishments of the people who pick our food, construct our houses, make our clothes.

It is a day to remember the 17 workers who were fired at Pomona College – many who had given of their labor for over 20 years – but were targeted — clearly – when the workers were in the process of organizing a union.

Brothers and Sisters, there is no better gift to meaning of May Day and all workers who have given of their lives. In this context, it is important to support the meaning of May day by supporting the efforts of the workers at Pomona College – and to raise our voices – to tell the Pomona College administration – shame on you for being one of the richest colleges in the nation, but, after using the labor of so many workers who have put food on our tables — you have used an old employer tactic of using a documentation check to fire workers who were only asking for a voice – for a right to have a vote without being intimidated – to be treated as human beings. On this day May Day, Pomona College – we call on you to practice the principles and values of this day – and get back to being the diverse, just, and dignified college that you profess to be. Brothers and Sisters – Are we making a commitment today?

Rather than an increase in narrow enforcement policies that are promoting wasted resources on militarizing our borders and compelling local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws – let us support the DREAM ACT which addresses the tragedy of young people who grew up in the U. S. and who have graduated from U. S. high schools but who, because of current immigration laws, have no mechanism for obtaining in-state tuition in the institutions of higher education and who have no way of obtaining legal residency. Are we committed to our AB-540 students today?

Let us support efforts that will allow immigrant workers the right to work here and receive legalization rights that will lead to permanent residency and citizenship. This means Genuine legalization proposals to adjust the status for all undocumented immigrants where they can be treated as full human beings — with no expansion of temporary guest worker programs and with labor law protections. Are we committed to stopping the scapegoating of our immigrant brothers and sisters and uniting all that can be united today?

In recent months, our organizing efforts of broad coalitions have been effective in this state by challenging the federal government’s immigration enforcement policies by organizing and passing legislation allowing undocumented students, not only to go to college, but to receive financial aid. We took on the use of checkpoints in the city of Pomona to discriminate against undocumented and forced the city to first make changes in its checkpoint policies – but eventually were part of a movement that resulted in the Governor signing a bill that allows anyone stopped at a checkpoint without a driver’s license to have someone come and pick up their car. This will kill the millions of dollars being made by the tow truck and impoundment companies. The governor, as a result of these movements, also signed a bill that called for neither California nor any of its cities, counties, or special districts –use E-Verify — because of its proven record of mistakes in particularly raciallly profiling our Mexican/Latino communities. Now, we are also gathering signatures to enact a new law that gives qualified undocumented immigrants who pay state income taxes the option to enter a program whose participants will gain relief from federal enforcement and whose labor will be decriminalized.

In the tradition of May Day, let us not be divided. Let us reward immigrant workers for all the contributions that they have made and are making. Most of all, let’s unite all that can be united and redefine Capitalism’s definition of “growth” as a basis for gauging whether there is progress.

Let us build examples of “systemic change” where the resources are used for a new type of growth that is rooted in creating a better quality of life for all – institutions and social enterprises that use the resources produced by workers for serving just and equitable community-building goals.

Once again, Let me ask you: Let me ask you: Are We United Today? Are we committed today? Are we willing to make a long-term commitment to unite all that can be united?

Si Se Puede! Si Se Puede!



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