On April 24, 2017, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution brought forward by the May 1 Action Coalition, the Coalition of City Unions, immigrant rights activists, and me, proclaiming City of Seattle workers have the right to take the day off on May 1, 2017 without retaliation. The resolution further asks that all City departments inform every non-emergency worker that they have this right to request the day off to attend May Day celebrations. Let’s use this victory in the coming months and year to go further and win May 1 as a paid holiday for all of Seattle’s workers! We urge everyone to join us at Judkins Park, 5/1 at 11 AM, to rally for immigrant and workers’ rights! For more, see my full remarks from before the vote below.
As speakers in public testimony have indicated, May 1 is International Workers’ Day, and in America it has also historically been a day of immigrant rights protests. May 1, 2017 is especially important because this is the era of Donald Trump in the White House, and we need a day of resistance — for immigrants to stand up to Trump’s egregious persecution of the immigrant community and the threat of a border wall; a day for labor to prepare the fight against so-called “right to work” legislation, and other attacks on labor unions; a day to defend environmental protections; a day to build the fight for equal pay and equal rights; a day to unite our struggles for LGBTQ rights, for Black Lives, for women’s rights, especially for reproductive rights, against Islamophobia, and beyond.
Further, the question is: Why are we urging strike action by workers who can engage in strike action on May 1, and why are we asking the City Council, which is the highest legislative body of the City, to stand with workers by declaring a day off for City of Seattle workers without retaliation?
The history of strike action is absolutely brilliant, and it illustrates that it is the most powerful tool the working class has in our arsenal. When we organize and withhold our labor, it hits the capitalist and billionaire class where it hurts: their profits.
On May Day, 1886, hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike in the United States to demand an 8-hour workday — a massive strike action that helped spread the 8-hour workday struggle all over the world.
In the mid-thirties, sit-down strikes by United Auto Workers and other unions affiliated with the then-radical Congress of Industrial Organizations (or CIO) highlighted the many workplace injustices experienced by industrial workers. Those strike actions by the CIO shook the corporate and political establishment, precipitating the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act — a package which finally granted the 8-hour work day to workers in America.
In 1952, the United Steelworkers of America went on strike, and after 53 days, won an industry-wide raise in wages and benefits, and automatically enrolled new workers into the union.
In 1965, the Delano grape strike by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the United Farm Workers won a historic battle, which laid the groundwork for migrant worker struggles that continue to this day, like the struggle against exploitation at the hands of Sakuma Brothers here in Washington State.
More recently, in 2006, the immigrant community, in opposition to attempted egregious anti-immigrant bills from Congress, held “A Day Without Immigrants,” and defeated those bills in an historic day of action.
And more recently, the airport shut down — the peaceful airport shutdown of SeaTac and other airports — pushed back against the attempted Muslim Travel Ban.
I think the point of all this history is clear: When we organize, mobilize, and fight — and when we strike together — we win.
I want to thank the staff members Amy Nguyen from Councilmember Bagshaw’s office, Vy Nguyen from Councilmember Gonzales’s office, and my staff, especially Ted Virdone, for helping draft and organize for this resolution. But my biggest gratitude goes to all the immigrant sisters and brothers, and sisters and brothers in the labor movement, who have fought not just this year, but for so many decades in the past.
I especially want to thank: the May 1 Action Coalition; El Comité activists, like Juan Bocanegra; WFSE 1488, thank you for being here today; United Auto Workers 4121, the union that represents graduate student workers at the UW campus; the Seattle Education Association, the union that represents public school educators; the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project; Socialist Alternative; Socialist Students; and many, many other organizations and activists who have brought us to the point where I think we will have a very exciting and historic May 1 action.
I urge Councilmembers to heed the call of City workers and pass this resolution unanimously, and I also invite all Councilmembers to join us on May Day, to rally and march for immigrant and workers’ rights. Join us in the fight to make Seattle truly a Sanctuary City in practice, not only in name!
The pre-march rally will begin at Judkins Park on Monday, May 1, at 11am. We hope to see everyone listening there. Solidarity!