Apr 24, 2006
After the unexpectedly large demonstrations for immigrant rights, a sentiment for a national immigrant strike on Monday, May 1 began to develop. A demonstration of the strength of immigrant workers in this society made sense to many.
But not to many of those who were given places of leadership in calling the first demonstrations.
SEIU District 82 Director Jaime Contreras, president of the National Capital Immigration Coalition (NCIC), first voiced concern over those who might be fired for missing a day of work, and later said that his coalition would not take part in any work stoppages on May 1.
Radio disk jockeys such as the nationally syndicated “El Piolin,” who had promoted the first demonstrations, or El Pistolero in Chicago, backed off and urged students and listeners not to jeopardize their “children’s education” by boycotting a day of school. Some told workers that a May Day strike would give a bad “public impression.”
Los Angeles’ Cardinal Roger Mahony, one of many in the Catholic Church who supported the first demonstrations, said, “Go to work. Go to school. Then join ... at a major rally afterward.”
How fitting if May Day – wiped out of American memory but honored and celebrated as International Workers’ Day around the world – were returned to American soil through the memories and struggles of the newest immigrants?
Those who think it would not be so good – the Cardinal Mahonys, the SEIU directors and “Coalition” presidents, the newly cautious DJs – have taken their places in the game. If left to these sorts of leaders, there will be no place for the movement to go but to be channeled into the dead ends already prepared for it by the bourgeoisie.
To stop that from happening, there need to be people who can expose the plans of the bosses in this complex game, and who can propose ways for immigrant workers to organize for themselves.
A May Day in that tradition would be far better than listening once again to the bosses’ spokespersons who claim that workers’ hopes must wait on the bosses’ laws, and on the McCains and Kennedys who write these laws.