International Workers Day in San Diego

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Alastair Running Bear Mullholland
May 27, 2024

Photo: International Workers Day in St. Paul, Minnesota, 2019

by Alastair Mulholland Running Bear

Do you like getting paid overtime? I know I do. The reason that we have overtime is thanks to the efforts of anarchists, communists, and union members. On May4, 1886, workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago went on strike to demand that they be paid overtime when working beyond eight hours of consecutive work. The resulting Haymarket Massacre spurred by the police suppression of the workers eventually led to the passage of overtime pay legislation in the United States and then around the world.

“The Marxist International Socialist Congress chose May 1 as their day of action in Paris in 1890 to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886 which is credited for requiring overtime to be paid beyond an eight hour workday” writes Maite Knorr-Evans in an article titled “Why isn’t Labor Day held on May 1st in the United States?”. While workers in San Diego did turn out in numbers like in France, it was still an uplifting and educational day.

It was a beautiful International Workers’ Day in sunny Southern California. The temperature was mild in the afternoon as I glided on my bicycle through the city to unite with fellow workers in solidarity at the two marches held in San Diego on May 1, 2024. Students and workers and family members marched and rallied to celebrate past accomplishments but also to become better informed about current struggles and to show support for new urgent demands.

One of the marches was largely organized by Unite Here Local 30 and the SD Labor Council to demand the passing of a $25.00 minimum wage law. The other march was organized by a broader coalition, which included SD Labor for Palestine, Union del Barrio, the Black Panther Party, Jewish Voices for Peace, the Palestinian Youth Movement and others on the left. The march was in solidarity with Palestinian workers and trade unions. They demanded liberation for Palestine and an end to the occupation and genocide.

I first rolled upon the march for the $25 minimum wage. Those in attendance numbered at around three to four hundred if I had to guess, and the mood was uplifting. The march meandered through the city as tourists and Padres fans looked on bewildered. Many were unaware of the significance of May 1sthistorically.

The march ended at the San Diego Civic Center Plaza where we chanted down Babylon, as represented by the oppressive, dull rectangular tower where supposed city officials who have the power to affect decisions sat in wonder or were perhaps not there at all.

I posted up, chatting to a young man who was a SDSU student. I asked him if he know about the other march; he said he did not. I was then greeted by an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) buddy who invited me over to some more IBEW contingent. He recognized me because I was representing by wearing my 569 IBEW shirt. There were about seven of us in total.

There were a couple elders, one of whom was the vice president of my Local 569. I hung out with them and listened to some of the hotel workers talk about how they had to work three jobs just to pay the rent and the strain it puts on them physically, emotionally, and mentally. It made me think of how much the mainstream media wants to stress the importance of mental health but seems unwilling or incapable of expressing the connection between mental health and the ever-increasing cost of living.

For example, a Consumer Affairs article titled “Comparing the Costs of Generations” states “Gen Z dollars today have 86% less purchasing power than those from when baby boomers were in their twenties.” After some time at the Unite Here rally, I rolled out to join the other march.

The SD Labor for Palestine march and rally began at the Federal Building in downtown San Diego. I didn’t catch the group until after they marched from the Federal Building though downtown and arrived at Chicano Park in Barrio Logan. Greeting the arrival of the marchers at Chicano Park was a group of Danza Azteca. Then different organizations took turns speaking about what they do.

Several speakers spoke about the links between the Zionist Settler Colonial project of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, the colonization of the Americas, and the apartheid-like situation existing at the San Diego/Tijuana border region. One woman who was battling cancer spoke on behalf of the San Diego Tenants Union. She fought back tears as she expressed the incredible difficulty she faced with not having enough time to work several jobs to pay rent for an apartment, which is falling apart and riddled with pest problems, to pay her hospital bills, and most importantly spend time with her children.