May Day is the workers’ day in Austin and around the world

About 200 workers, students, and activists in Austin celebrated May Day, the International Workers Day, with a rally at the State Capitol and a march through downtown. As they began their march down Congress Avenue, they chanted, “We are the source of all your wealth.” Along the way they stopped at a Bank of America branch and chanted, “Shame, shame” for the bank’s role in crashing the economy in 2008. As they passed a Chase Bank branch, they chanted “You got bailed out, we got sold out.”

The Austin celebration was part of a worldwide day of action. In the US, May Day rallies were held from coast to coast to rekindle the spirit of the Occupy Movement. In New York, May Day celebrants began the day with picketing and rallies at banks and corporate headquarters and ended with a march down Broadway to the financial district. The New York Times reports that “at one point, the marchers filled most of Broadway between Houston and Worth Streets.” More than 70 were arrested.

In Europe, they protested austerity measures that have driven up unemployment and caused a second recession in less than four years in some countries. In Tunis, they celebrated the mass movement that toppled Tunisian dictator Zine El Abindine Ben Ali. In Israel, the Communist Party of Israel held rallies where people carried banners reading, “Money for Jobs and Education, Not War and Occupation.”

Back in Austin, organizers of the event said that they wanted build unity and eliminate divisions that have stifled the movement for economic and social justice. “We are all in this together,” said Dave Cortez, one of the event’s organizers. “Students, mothers, bus drivers, coal miners, immigrant workers, construction workers–we’re all on the same side, but too often we end up fighting each other. It does us no good to fight each other. The beauty of the Occupy Movement from Spain, to New York, to Tahrir Square is that the 99 percent came together to fight for a better world.”

Other speakers echoed this theme. A speaker from the Austin Immigrants Rights Coalition said in Spanish, “We want to build a society in which all people have dignity and equality.” The human race has a right to be free without borders, without walls, and without oppression.

Speakers from the University of Texas United Students Against Sweatshops called on workers in the US to stand in solidarity with garment workers in Central America and Bangladesh paid a pittance to make sweatshirts and t-shirts bearing logos of UT and other universities.

Nearly 20 UT students were recently arrested for a sit-in at UT President William Power’s office. They wanted UT to get serious about ending sweatshop abuse. The arrests have not ended their campaign. They staged another sit-in last week. “The semester may be ending but our fight against sweatshops, against education budget cuts, and for a real student voice in matters that affect us is just beginning,” said Lucian Villasenor.

Representing the Austin Central Labor Council Leslie Cunningham of the Texas State Employees Union said that it’s going to take a mass movement that includes union and non-union workers, immigrant workers, and people marginalized by the economy to bring real change.

“The 1 percent want to lower their taxes, cut public services for working people, and turn taxpayers against public sector workers who provide these services,” Cunningham said. “Only a broad movement that brings together working class organizations with social justice groups can save these services and protect those who provide them.”

Members of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee told the audience that many Palestinians are denied a basic human right– the right to a job. Until this human right and other rights for Palestinians are secure, we should boycott, divest, and sanction Israel, said Snehal Shingavi, a UT professor.

Charles Grant of the International Socialist Organization told the crowd about a strike of 3,600 Lockheed Martin workers in Fort Worth who are trying to protect their pensions and the pensions of future workers. This kind of militant, rank-and-file action is what it will take to reclaim the US from the 1 percent, Grant said. He urged people to contribute to the workers’ strike fund.

“May 1st represents the coming together of activists, trade unions, and immigrants all uniting to demonstrate the need for a different set of priorities in the world today,” Cortez said in a media statement about the event.

 

Throughout the wor

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