On May Day, New Orleans celebrates diverse working class

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New Orleans, May 1 – Immigrant-worker organization Unión Migrante led a march to celebrate the international workers’ holiday, which has been revived across the country in recent years by immigrant activists. 

The march began on Conti Street beneath a statue of Mexico’s Indigenous president, Benito Juárez. (Juárez was a Zapotec leader from a peasant family who was exiled by a conservative government during the 1850s, first in Havana, Cuba, and then in New Orleans.) The May Day march ended with a rally in front of City Hall. 

Representatives from many endorsing organizations spoke, including unions like the National Association of Letter Carriers, United Teachers of New Orleans, and Starbucks Workers United. Speakers from revolutionary organizations also took to the mic, such as Workers Voice Socialist Movement, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and Party for Socialism and Liberation. 

Reflecting the great movement that is sweeping the country, many participants wore keffiyehs and speakers emphasized the importance of the Palestinian liberation struggle. An organizer with Students for a Democratic Society spoke on behalf of Tulane University’s Palestine encampment, which had been brutally suppressed by police the day before. 

The prominence of Palestine solidarity on May Day is a very good thing. The workers’ movement cannot confine itself to narrow economics. All attacks on oppressed people are attacks on workers. These are all workers’ issues. Indeed, this was one of the main arguments in Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin’s pamphlet, “What is to Be Done? 

He said that the workers’ struggle absolutely cannot confine itself to just wages or economics in the narrow sense. Instead, our movement must expose the oppressors and exploiters in whatever sphere they’re operating, and we must fight all their attacks. We might take this advice to heart, given that Lenin led the revolution that established the first lasting workers’ state.

‘Resist Landry!’ 

Queer and trans contingents were prominent throughout the march, from trans youth organization BreakOUT!, to La Familia LGBTQ del Sur, to the Queer and Trans Community Action Project (QTCAP), newly formed by members of the old Real Name Campaign. 

QTCAP activists held aloft a banner saying, “Resist Landry.” Jeff Landry is Louisiana’s far-right, bigoted governor, who recently tried to prevent hungry kids from accessing school lunch over the summer (doesn’t seem like much of a “family man”). Others in the crowd held up the blue, pink and white trans pride flag. 

One stage and film set worker with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees or IATSE gave a talk. He said:
“The union movement right now in this country is huge. The workers’ voice is being heard and they are very frightened. Stay together, fight the fight, continue to spread the message of what is right.”

This message of unity was echoed in all the speeches. We are living in dangerous times. Capitalism is in crisis and attacks are coming down everywhere. Things are bad in Louisiana. Landry and his fascist movement are ramming through anti-worker, anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-queer, and anti-trans legislation. They’re imposing anti-women legislation. (Landry made a career undermining abortion rights long before he was elected governor.)

But that speaker was right. Our ruling class enemies are afraid. If they weren’t afraid, they wouldn’t be attacking us so fiercely. Six southern governors wouldn’t have signed a letter denouncing the United Auto Workers union drive in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Despite the governors’ efforts, the workers won! They organized a union. 

As in cities and towns across the country, and around the world for that matter, the crowd that gathered in New Orleans on May Day was a microcosm of the working class. Our class is diverse. It is immigrant and non-immigrant, Black and white, Asian, Indigenous. It is trans, cis, straight, and queer. Despite these differences, we are all workers. The capitalists are afraid of that. 

May Day was a warmup. They know that we can come out in the thousands and the millions, just like we did for Black lives in 2020.

¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido! The people united will never be defeated!

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