May 1, International Workers Day, commemorates a 1886 general strike across the United States when the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions led over 300,000 industrial laborers in demanding a humane eight-hour work day.
Dozens of countries on five continents now celebrate May Day as a national holiday to honor workers’ collective struggles. Its relatively low profile in the United States reflects our country’s suspicion of progressive movements, undervaluation of human labor and relegation of meaningful employment protections to the idiosyncratic whims of the private sector.
United Marin Rising wants to make May Day in Marin different.
We are a community group formed amid preparations for an Inauguration Day march and rally, with the intention to coalesce disparate organizing efforts across the county.
In cooperation with established organizations like SEIU Local 1021, Canal Welcome Center, Marin Asian Advocacy Project, San Rafael First United Methodist Church, and Social Justice Center of Marin, as well as newly formed associations like Mill Valley Community Action Network, West Marin Standing Together, and local Indivisible groups, our May Day March & Fiesta aims to provide Marin residents a renewed opportunity to demonstrate public support for workers’ rights.
All are invited to join us at 2:30 p.m. May 1 in San Rafael’s downtown plaza for a solidarity march to Al Boro Community Center at Pickleweed Park where we will celebrate our spirit of unity with a fiesta featuring local performers and vendors, beginning at 5 p.m.
In her new book, Sen. Elizabeth Warren points to the shocking reality that, of the nearly quintupled economic growth the United States enjoyed between 1980 and 2015, over 99 percent of generated wealth “trickled down” to only the top 10 percent of earners. In Marin County, where nearly one-third of our neighbors form part of this top 10 percent national income bracket, it can be easy to presume that economic shifts have benefited the general populace and to ignore the many hardships that coexist in our communities.
However, even here, the most vulnerable among us endure inadequate, sometimes unlawful, working conditions. Many of our neighbors struggle to access basic health care and withstand long commutes from the few neighborhoods available to the working class.
Even as Marin strives toward compliance with the federal Civil Rights Act after a 2011 finding of racial segregation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced in April 2017 that Marin households earning up to $105,350 require housing subsidies in order to afford exorbitant local rental prices.
Workers’ plight in Marin is no more palpable than in the widespread exploitation of our undocumented immigrant communities.
While California laws offer nominal protections, the threat of deportation renders undocumented workers virtually powerless in employment negotiations. This dynamic stands to worsen under the sway of President Donald Trump’s pejorative rhetoric and aggressive policies against immigrant communities. Our national indifference to under-regulated working conditions, particularly in the face of deindustrialization and automation, has enabled a decline in organized labor unions and the resulting near disappearance of many historical gains.
The Trump administration’s systematic dismantling of regulatory protections across myriad federal agencies threatens to do away with countless more public protections hard won over many generations.
Yet Marin’s high levels of wealth and education afford us both the opportunity and the obligation to lead the way with forward-thinking, humane policies and practices for everyone. United Marin Rising challenges Marin residents to join a movement that stands for and celebrates all of our neighbors.
This May Day, let’s bring Marin County together in mutual care and common cause. Together, we can march forward toward a just and empowered future.
Lynne Hoey of Larkspur is a founding member of United Marin Rising and a social and economic justice activist. Lisa Bennett is a founder of Indivisible Sausalito and is a member of United Marin Rising.