A Dull May 1 Celebration

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Flags of the United Farmworkers Union at Fresno City Hall on May 1 during an event for International Workers’ Day.

By Eduardo Stanley

About 200 people participated in the May Day event, which took place on May 1 in front of the Fresno City Hall. The majority of the participants were activists or members of the organizations that organized the event, among them the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) and the United Farmworkers (UFW).

A kiosk offered a free Covid-19 test, with results ready in only 15 minutes. This is part of Project ORALE, supported by Centro Binacional Para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO), Líderes Campesinas, UC Davis and the Central California Environmental Justice Network.

The MCs started the event with a minute of silence to honor those who died due to Covid-19 and police brutality. They also expressed solidarity with the Asian community, the most recent victim of hate crimes, and the African American community. There wasn’t any representative of these communities.

Then two Catholic priests took over to bless the event. Father Alex was brief and to the point, whereas Father Joaquin abused his time to the extreme with an endless peroration without connection between topics while promoting the anti-abortion Catholic agenda in a paternalistc and aggressive tone.

The speakers highlighted immigrant rights and asked for support for immigration reform, mainly for a proposal known as the Farm Labor Modernization Act, which many critics consider an extension of the temporary working permit known as H2A. Even though the proposal would provide green cards to undocumented farmworkers, it has strong limitations and few labor protections, such as the right to join an union.

The other immigration proposals were almost ignored. The immigration issue is not a Latino issue, or about farmworkers only—without a doubt the most affected by a corrupt immigration system. There are at least a million undocumented Asians. There are also thousands of African immigrants without residence, and lots of Eastern Europeans in the same situation.

May 1 should be a celebration to honor workers around the world without consideration of their national origin and language, and an opportunity to create a multiracial and multicultural association to protect their labor rights (which was the spirit of the May 1 rallies of 2006 and 2007), particularly the right to join an union.

Photos by Peter Maiden

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Eduardo Stanley is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at editor@fresnoalliance.com.