Groups call for stronger rights and protections for immigrants and workers alike
NEW YORK, NY - Today, the May Day New York Coalition stood as one voice to advocate for stronger legislation in Congress to protect the rights of workers and immigrants alike.
Immigrants make up nearly half of New York City’s workforce – a higher share than in any major city except Miami. Immigrants make up a significant portion of organized labor’s membership; the struggle for both immigrant and worker rights are inextricably linked.
The May Day New York Coalition is an alliance of both labor and immigrant rights organizations, led by 32BJ SEIU, 1199SEIU, DC37, LiUNA Local 78, LiUNA Local 79, Make the Road New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, Teamsters Joint Council 16, and United Federation of Teachers.
The day of action began with a press conference with U.S. Representative Grace Meng, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Public Advocate Letitia James, affected individuals, labor leaders, and immigrant rights advocates. The coalition organizations, joined by co-sponsoring groups and allies, concluded the day with a massive rally in Washington Square Park, in solidarity with May Day celebrations across the state and the country.
“For generations, our unions and immigrant workers have made countless contributions to our city and country,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “As we experience threats from the federal government, it is more important than ever that we stand with our union and immigrant brothers and sisters who continue to be living testaments to what this already-great country should be about -- fairness, diversity, and unity.”
“As Washington fights around the clock to roll back our progress for worker and immigrant rights, we in New York City stand together to fight back,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “May Day is about recognizing the contributions of all workers in our City. New York is a city of immigrants – and it was built by the working class. So while our communities are under attack, the fabric of our city is strong. On May Day – and every day – we’re working to put New York City at the forefront of the fight for fairness and dignity for all.”
“Laborers and immigrants are an essential part of our country’s past, present and future, and nowhere is that more apparent than New York City. The Council is committed to protecting and helping immigrants today as we celebrate May Day, and most importantly, every day. Our support is unwavering, and will remain steadfast despite attacks on these essential members of our community – our friends, neighbors and family members - in these trying times. Anything less is un-American,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“On May Day, the City stands united with workers and immigrants across the five boroughs, including the 3,000 Honduran New Yorkers with TPS who are fighting today to remain in their homes. Honduran TPS recipients have been hardworking members of this nation’s economy for two decades. These New Yorkers have U.S. citizen children, own homes, and have deep roots in the five boroughs. If the Trump Administration revokes Honduran TPS, parents will be separated from their children and forced to return to unsafe conditions. We urge Secretary Nielsen not to turn her back on immigrant workers and families,” said Bitta Mostofi, Acting Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs.
“The Trump Administration’s cruel threats against immigrants and workers are not irreversible. We’ve seen groups of workers – service workers in airports, teachers in various states, flight attendants – join together in unions and win better wages and working conditions. With courage and determination, unions and other community organizations can work to do right by our immigrant brothers and sisters, and all workers,” said Héctor Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU.
“On this day of worldwide recognition and celebration of worker solidarity, we in the labor movement stand together and renew our commitment to the fight for workers’ rights and human rights and civil rights. We must never forget that this nation was built on the backs of working families, immigrants and the poor. And at this perilous moment in history, with so much of what’s been gained now at risk, we call upon our sisters and brothers to go to the polls this November to help rebuild a US Congress that supports our rights, our interests, and our families,” said Henry Garrido, DC 37 Executive Director.
“We the members of Local 78 are proud to be part of the fight for stronger protections for immigrants and workers because we represent both. We are the face of those being targeted by an anti-immigrant administration in Washington and by employers in the construction industry in New York who are attempting to break workers’ power, and jeopardize the labor rights that previous generations fought for and even died for decades ago. Together we are stronger and we won’t allow those rights to be taken away. We will continue the fight to improve the working conditions of so many immigrant New Yorkers who are giving it all to provide a better future for their families,” said Edison Severino, Business Manager of LiUNA Local 78.
“Immigrants and workers across the country are under attack by an administration that seeks to take away our rights and tear apart our families. But today we are making it clear that we stand united in the fight for respect and dignity for all—whether by resisting ICE raids or fighting back against Trump’s attempts to roll-back vital worker protections,” said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York.
“The struggles for immigrant rights and worker rights are inextricably joined together, which is why we must stand arm-in-arm at the frontlines for justice. Today we speak as one voice to call on fellow voters to elect representatives that will protect and uplift all New Yorkers,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
"The abuses that sparked the first May Day are still alive today. Unions are still fighting for every worker to have a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. Too many workers -- especially immigrant workers -- are patching together part-time jobs, working grueling hours at Amazon warehouses, fast food restaurants, or app companies. The labor and immigrant rights movements are coming together today to stand up for all workers and fight back,” said George Miranda, President, Teamsters Joint Council 16.
“We see what happens when teachers and public sector employees band together in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona to say they aren’t going to sit by and watch their schools and communities starved for funds. We see working families coming together in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, where rightwing activists and politicians have sought to undermine public sector unions. As labor leaders and union members we know that our strength comes from standing together. This May Day, that strength is on display – a reminder of what we can accomplish when we rely on each other,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers.
The international workers’ holiday, otherwise known as May Day, began in the United States in the 1870s with a demand to shorten the working day to eight hours. One national labor organization called for a nationwide general strike on May 1st, 1886, which brought out hundreds of thousands of strikers across the country. Today it continues to be a day of celebration and mobilization around the world.
As more immigrants have joined the U.S. working class and have organized for their rights, immigration laws have increasingly been used to fire union members and break up union drives. In response, the labor movement started speaking out in support of immigrants’ rights. On May 1st, 2006, millions of immigrant workers and labor allies poured into the streets in the Great American Boycott, walking off the job and marching against the anti-immigrant legislation being considered by Congress at the time.
Co-sponsors include: African Communities Together, ALIGN, AAANY, CSEA 1000, CWA Local 1180, Democratic Socialists of America NYC Chapter, Democratic Socialists of America Hudson Valley Chapter, Faith in New York, Food and Water Watch, Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition, International Socialists, JFREJ, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Local 338, RWDSU/UFCW, Metro New York A. Philip Randolph Institute, MinKwon, National Writers Union, NICE, NYC CLC, NYC LCLAA, NYCLU, NYSNA, People’s Climate Movement – New York, PSC, Sierra Club, Street Vendors Project, US Labor Against the War, UWUA Local 1-2, Workers United Laundry, Dry-Cleaning JB, Workers United Metropolitan Area Joint Board, Workmen's Circle, and Working Families Party.