In honor of International Workers’ Day, hundreds of activists, advocates, and allies walked for more than three hours across Seattle as part of the 20th annual Seattle May Day March for Immigrant and Workers Rights. Marchers had different reasons for protesting, with some marching for rent control, an end to gentrification, or calling for lower housing costs, but they were all united in solidarity for immigrants and laborers.
Throughout the entire parade of protestors were police officers mounted on bicycles slowly squeaking along with the pace of the march. Hundreds of people from different organizations took to the streets in peaceful protest of the state of affairs for the immigrant community and for workers around the world. Many of the protestors were dressed in indigenous garb while others played music and sang for the marchers as they walked by.
Up close look at the 20th Annual May Day March for Rights of Immigrants and Workers, on Wednesday, May 1st, 2019.
One of the marchers was Stan Strasner, a member of the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). He spoke about how the DSA has worked to support the growing trend of educator-led strikes across the country, and how these educator strikes have been a very important and encouraging sign for the labor movement in the U.S..
“My work has been around educators. Right now nationally, you can see beginning in West Virginia 2 years ago there was a 9-day walk-out strike…for a 5 percent raise, not just for educators, but for all public sector workers,” Strasner said. “So this was something that expanded way beyond some work site labor struggle.”
Strasner said that this problem isn’t isolated to red states, as it also frequently comes up in blue states like Washington.
He said that nationally the DSA is supporting the striking educators by helping to raise money to support faculty, as well as raising money to support any students who were food insecure and normally got lunch from school. He saw the issue in Washington as being especially egregious given the enormous wealth gap that exists within the state.
“Honestly in a state with the two richest people in the world living in it, Bezos and Gates, there’s no reason for there to be any cuts to education. It’s not a humane system,” Strasner said.
DSA Co-Chair Maddie Hanhardt spoke on issues like immigrant rights, and labor struggles to get better working conditions and pay. She also talked about how those issues intersect with May Day, and what the DSA is doing to help those causes both locally and nationally.
She said two of the biggest issues that Seattle DSA works with are immigrant justice and laborers’ rights, which is why it was an easy choice for Seattle DSA to join the march.
“What we’re standing for is better protections for immigrant workers, especially undocumented workers because they seem to be taken advantage of the most. Just because you’re undocumented doesn’t mean you should be paid an even more unfair wage, or have that be used to be mistreated,” Hanhardt said.
Hanhardt said that the organization is raising money for a bond fund to ensure those detained have access to a hearing, and is also planning a Mother’s Day fundraiser for women at detention centers. She said the DSA worked at a national scale last summer during the height of the tensions along the southern border, and that there were many coordinated actions either against Immigrant and Customs Enforcement or in support of immigrants seeking asylum.
“We’re trying to fight for people who need their voices amplified and need a platform for their voice,” Hanhardt said. “Immigrants are workers.”
AJ Johnson works in the Violence Against Women Act division of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. They spoke to the mission and goals of their organization and how it intersects with the May Day march.
“Our mission is to advance and defend the rights of immigrants, not just in the state of Washington, but around the country,” Johnson said. “We do that by providing services like legal representation, impact litigation for big class-action lawsuits, and some political advocacy both on the state and national level. Most of the legal work we do is here in the state of Washington.”
Johnson said that the organization started 30 years ago, but its mission has always been to protect the rights of immigrants.
Previous May Day marches included violent clashes between protesters, anarchists, and police, but this year no major incidents occurred.
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