May Day 2006

The first national general strike in US history occurred yesterday. It was also the largest strike of any kind in the nation’s history. At least 1.2 million people participated in day-time rallies in the just the largest cites, with many hundreds of thousands more in 100 or 200 events around the country. Although not all at the rallies were taking off from work, undoubtedly many took off work and did not go to the rallies, so between one and two million workers struck yesterday.  This is 10-20% of the entire immigrant workforce.

AP estimate of the biggest rallies:

400,000 in Chicago
400,000 in LA
100,000 in San Jose
55,000 in San Francisco
15,000 in Houston
30,000 across Florida

In New York City, estimates of size were all over the place, but the 3-mile long March could not have been smaller than 150,000

In certain areas and industries, the strike was almost complete.  Agricultural production across both Florida and California came to a halt. Contstuction workers in Florida struck in large numbers.  In the Midwest, all three largest meatpackers war forced to close, knowing that if they did not, their workforces would have walked out anyway. In Los Angeles, the garment workers closed the huge garment center and the wholesale food workers struck as well. The independent truckers shut down the ports of Los Angles and Long Beach.  Except for some of the meatpackers, none of these groups of workers were in unions.

By comparison, in all of last year, labor-union strikes involved 100,000 people.

Workers have found the US in 2006, as they have found in other places and at other times that there is another way to fight than traditional union strikes: the political mass strike. What demands for wages or working conditions alone could not do, an ambitious political demand—for the legalization of ALL immigrants--has accomplished.

At the same time, the immigrant rights movement, now clearly a movement of the immigrant section of the working class, has discovered that bold, uncompromising demands--for Equal Rights, no deportations—and bold tactics—a general strike-- can achieve unity , while timid “realistic” demands and tactics cannot.

In New York the crowd was overwhelmingly Latino, so the sort of unity achieved among various immigrant groups in Chicago has not yet come to New York. Nor were many native-born in evidence, so the unity of the peace movement and immigrant movement is also yet to be achieved. But it was a joyous and militant crowd.  The sure–fire applause lines were all those calling for legalization for all immigrants and equal rights for all. Those were the demands that unified everyone and that had brought them there.

At the rally, Saleh Ajaj spoke for NJ Civil Rights Defense Committee on the demand, adopted by the May 1 coalition, to “free all detainees”.  He movingly spoke of being himself detained for 14 months. We then paraded in the midst of the huge crowd with our “FREE ALL DETAINEES” banner, which got into many photos.

Of course, the local English-speaking press declined to publish any of the demands.

Importantly, the coalition passed out tens of thousand of flyers calling people to a New York metro regional conference on June 17 and to the next meeting of the coalition, tomorrow night,. Hopefully through these flyers were will bring into a new democratic organizing process some of the key grass-roots activists who mobilized this strike in workplaces and communities. That will be the key to building an ever-growing movement for immigrant and worker rights.

NJ Civil Rights Defense Committee Supports General Strike of Work, Schools and Stores
on May 1st - International Workers Day!

    A nation-wide movement for immigrant rights, a new civil-rights movement, has taken to the streets.  Millions of people have  marched and walked off their jobs and out of their schools from Los Angeles to New York City, demanding full rights for mmigrants.
    Now the movement is rising to a new level.  The coalition that organized the Grand March of over a million people in Los Angeles, together with hundreds of other groups, has called for a day of  boycott of work, schools and stores on May 1st, International  Workers Day.  This is part of an important historical tradition of  working people going on strike to win political rights.
    The New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee strongly supports the call to strike and urges all our supporters to participate in the New York City May Day rally at Union Square in New York City at 4 PM.  Now is the time for native-born activists to join  together with the immigrant rights movement in the streets to demand equal rights for all. The attacks on immigrants undermine all our rights, and the rising of the immigrants defends the rights of all.
    For too long there have been divided movements in this country, where native-born protestors take to the streets against the War Abroad, but fail to fight against the War at Home - the brutal attacks against immigrants.  May Day can be the first step to overcoming this divide and building a single, powerful united movement for justice.  The recent successful movement of strikes and demonstrations in France, which led to the repeal of a law attacking workers' rights, shows that unified community and workplace action across  an entire country is the way to win.
    Some within the immigrant rights movement have rejected the call to strike, saying  that workers will be fired and victimized.  But the only way a movement can fight against retaliation is by building growing unity in the streets and by fighting to win people's jobs back, to stop the detentions and deportations, as was done after the April  10th protests.  In fact, in many areas, employers, far from threatening workers, are voluntarily shutting down to avoid becoming a target of the protests.
    Large groups of workers throughout the nation are planning to  strike on May Day -- truckers at all the West Coast ports, Los Angeles taxi drivers, shop workers on Long Island and agricultural workers in Florida. This emerging movement, organizing a series  of rallies, marches and strikes, can win equal rights for all. It  can end the war of terror against immigrants that attacks all workers and that threatens the very core of our democracy.
New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee

more info on national organizing: