The first of May arrives tomorrow and in Santa Ana that has translated over the years into community activists turning out to mark International Workers' Day. With an agenda for social justice, the Orange County May Day Coalition is readying for a march and rally through the city starting at Sasscer Park on the corner of 4th and Ross Street at 2 p.m.
Their demands for this year center on education and immigration with slogans like “Fix the educational crisis!” and “Driver's licenses for all!” Solidarity will also be expressed with Service Employee International Union-United Service Workers West janitors, both local and statewide, whose contract expires today as they seek to maintain fair wages and full family health care benefits.
The multi-pronged approach owes to the diversity of the OC May Day Coalition itself. The umbrella organization is comprised of groups such as Chican@s Unidos, DeColores Queer OC, El Centro Cultural de Mexico, SEIU-USWW, Occupy Santa Ana, and the OC Peace Coalition.
“Last year the coalition worked on the car impound policy change in Santa Ana,” says OC May Day Coalition member Yenni Díaz referring to their grassroots victory that provided relief for unlicensed, and often undocumented, drivers at city checkpoints. “This year the coalition asked what could be done to continue helping people in Santa Ana and the community at large. We thought the next logical step to take would be driver's licenses for everyone.”
If successful, the effort would not establish a new precedent, but restore an old one. Up until 1993, undocumented immigrants in California were eligible to apply for and receive driver's licenses. The outlook for the coalition is to advocate on the local level while connecting with groups throughout the state working on the same initiative.
Education reform is the other central campaign, with constant budget cuts to all public school systems in California producing what the coalition has deemed a 'state of emergency.' Organizers are honing in on the aftereffects in terms of teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, standardized testing, cuts to summer school and other programs. “With education, we think that is something that can be undertaken locally like with our school boards while identifying it with budget cuts from the state and also with what's going on nationally,” Díaz says. “It's multi-tier organizing.”
Much has changed since tens of thousands marched through the streets of Santa Ana back in 2006 challenging HR 4437, also known as the notorious anti-immigrant Sensenbrenner bill. The federal DREAM Act hasn't come to pass into law in that time span and the Obama administration has not only failed to deliver promised comprehensive immigration reform, but has actually ratcheted up deportations.
“Although there is a movement nationally to push for immigration reform, we realized in the meantime what we can do locally,” Díaz says of the activist focus of OC's march and rally over recent years. “May Day is a time where people can come together, share and collaborate on what they are working on.”
With the action falling on a Tuesday afternoon, organizers are expecting a modest turnout numbering in the hundreds. The demonstration will kick off after initial programming slated for 2 p.m. Activists plan to return to Sasscer Park around 5 p.m. for a rally, so those who don't take the day off can still show up and participate.
'May the first' be with you!