On May 1, 1886, thousands of anarchists, socialists, and rank-and-file workers marched up Michigan Avenue to fight for an eight-hour workday.
On May 1, 2000, anarchists, socialists, and workers from a vast array of industries will take to the streets again, in much larger numbers than in recent years, at rallying points in and around the downtown area.
Dennis Dixon, who works with the umbrella May Day Coalition, sees the renewed activity as part of a "nascent anticapitalist sentiment among people." But if Jose Landaverde gets his way, a majority of those protesting on May 1 will be day laborers.
As in 1886, the length of the workday is a primary concern. According to Landaverde, day laborers often work 16 hours a day, in substandard conditions, without hope of union representation and without benefits of any kind. He says nonpayment or partial payment of wages is not uncommon and undocumented workers can't speak out for fear of deportation. "These are not people usually involved in politics, they're just hungry," says Landaverde. "They are people reduced to slavery because they are looking for food."
According to a September survey by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, 75 percent of people in shelters worked at day labor, and more than 95 percent of these workers wanted a permanent full-time position. Unfortunately, they may be trapped by day labor--many agencies pay minimum wage and require their workers to sign waivers forbidding them to accept these jobs as permanent.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average worker in a full-time job earns $540 a week, while the average temporary worker makes $342. For Latinos working day labor, weekly wages are $296. These are the official statistics; unofficially, Landaverde says, day laborers fare far worse.
Landaverde, a fiery, 27-year-old radical Catholic from El Salvador, hopes to attract more than 3,000 day laborers to his May 1 Day Labor Strike. Participants will march along the same route as the historic 1886 demonstration. The march kicks off at 11 AM in Grant Park at Michigan and Balbo and proceeds north to converge with other marches (see below) at Pioneer Court, 400 N. Michigan. For details, call 773-593-1800.
Other May 1 events include:
The performance poetry group I Was Born With Two Tongues and Marvin Tate's band D-Settlement will perform at a fund-raiser for the Day Labor Strike, following a May Day discussion, beginning at 6:30 PM Sunday, April 30, at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo. Admission is $10 to $20, on a sliding scale. Call 312-362-9707 for more.
The "Protest of Global Capital and Corporate Dominance" begins at 8 AM May 1 at the Chicago Board of Trade, LaSalle and Jackson. This rally will head east to join the Day Labor Strike at Grant Park. For information, call the Eighth Day Center for Justice at 312-641-5151.
"Global Crimes, Local Action"--a demonstration supporting amnesty for undocumented workers (recently endorsed by the AFL-CIO) and freedom for all political prisoners--begins at 11 AM at Division and Western. The march will head southeast to join a Pilsen-based amnesty march at Halsted and Grand; both groups will then join the Day Labor strike at Pioneer Court. For details, call Prairie Fire at 773-278-6706 or Pueblo Sin Fronteras at 773-772-8383; for details on the Pilsen march, call Casa Aztlan at 312-666-5508.
"Protest the U.S.-Sponsored Dirty War Against the Colombian Labor Movement" will be held at noon May 1 at the Colombian Consulate, 500 N. Michigan. Call the Colombia Labor Monitor at 773-794-2605.
A "May Day Rally for Justice," sponsored by Neighbors Against Police Brutality, the Christian Council on Urban Affairs, and the Coalition to Protect Public Housing, is scheduled for 2:30 May 1 at Daley Plaza, Dearborn and Washington. For details, call the May Day Coalition at 773-794-5226.