May 1 marked the remembrance of a historical day in Chicago. In 1886, around 35,000 workers left their jobs in order to join the national movement for an eight-hour work day. In the following days, the protest took a violent turn as police and protesters clashed with one another. Over a century later, protesters still march and gather in the streets of Chicago to support labor rights annually on May 1.
This year, demonstrators marched from Union Park to Federal Plaza, where speakers and performers advocated for the rights of all workers–but particularly for undocumented immigrants. The demonstration was led by a coalition of organizations, unions, workers and community leaders from all around the state of Illinois. Several leaders took to the podium at the demonstration, including Emma Lozano, pastor of Lincoln United Methodist Church in Pilsen and organizer of the May Day demonstration.
“May Day is the day we celebrate the worker,”Lozano said, noting that during the pandemic, when many essential workers died, those who were undocumented were especially hard hit. “They didn’t get any money from the government. They couldn’t quarantine. They couldn’t even prove that they were essential workers to get the vaccine. So they died,” she says, adding that it’s time for the government to support them. “We call on president Biden to fulfill the promise he made with Obama to legalize our undocumented families.”
Other speakers noted that the support given to Ukrainian refugees has not been extended to Latino immigrants who have been here for decades. “We’re calling for justice. We want the same treatment for the people that have been here for 30 years…. making our food, cutting our grass, making our buildings here,” said Cristobal Cavazos, community organizer and Coordinator of Immigrant Solidarity DuPage. “The Latino community has done so much over the years. We’re calling for the same consideration for our legalization.”
In addition to the featured speakers, there were several performances in support of the demonstration. Aztec Dance Chicago performed a ceremonial dance calling upon ancestors to support those in the movement. “We’re advocating for the rights of undocumented workers with solidarity and a strong belief in equality,” said Susana Ollin Kuikatl Tekpatzin Bañuelos, program instructor at Aztec Dance Chicago. “For treatment of respect for everybody.”