OC May Day Marches to Fight for Immigrant and Worker Rights!

Many countries around the world celebrate May 1st as International Workers' Day. Though the holiday's origins trace back to the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago, the United States–in another example of American exceptionalism–shrugs its own history aside and tells its workers to clock in! In recent years, though, the immigrant rights movement revived May Day from coast to coast, even in Orange County.

To mark the occasion this year, two coalitions will host marches on Friday in Anaheim and SanTana. Both are calling for immigrant and worker rights in their own way.


The Orange County Immigration Coalition (OCIC) kicks off May Day with actions starting in the morning. The network of non-profits and labor unions is gathering at St. Boniface Church in Anaheim for a mass at 9 a.m. centered on relief for undocumented immigrant 'childhood arrivals' and parents–aka DACA and DAPA. With President Barack Obama's deferred action programs, the focus seems to be shifting from comprehensive immigration reform to mobilizing around taking advantage of not getting deported by la migra…for now.

“I would hate to say immigration reform is on the back burner, but the political reality that we're living in, we're struggling both as labor and the immigrant rights movement,” says Orange County Labor Federation Executive Director Julio Perez. Union halls are going to be used in the coming weeks and months to host informational workshops on DACA/DAPA for workers seeking to learn more. “There's about 300,000 undocumented people in Orange County,” he adds. “Out of that, about 100,000 qualify for DACA or DAPA.”

The other main issue is the fight to unionize El Super grocery stores. After mass, workers will march on El Super at Anaheim Plaza on Euclid. “We do have seven unionized stores but thirty-five of them are non-union,” says Perez. “We've been trying to negotiate that contract for almost over eight months now.” The ongoing boycott launched in December and the Labor Fed head says it has cost the Mexican grocery chain 10% in sales.

The Anaheim march treks to Pearson Park next for a short closing program with mayor Tom Tait, among others, speaking on immigration reform.

Later in the afternoon, another International Workers' Day march takes place in SanTana. The OC May Day Coalition (OCMDC) is renewing the call of past protests to have the city end its jail contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Since the agreement first came to public attention, coalition members continue to meet with Mayor Miguel Pulido and other city officials.

Activists want to zero in on Santa Ana jail's financial records. The rationale from city officials and the police department has always been that bed sharing with ICE for a price allows for additional revenue streams to shore up operating losses. “We want to draw a clear picture of where money is going and how it's being allocated,” says OCMDC member Ricardo Barajas. “In that, we're tying in how ICE's presence in Santa Ana is really affecting us.”

But the fight over the ICE contract isn't just about dollars and cents. The 3 p.m. march starting at Sasscer Park–unofficially dubbed “Black Panther Park” by activists no doubt because of a 2009 Weekly cover story on the SanTana Panthers–holds 'universal human rights' as its theme. “ICE is a deportation authority,” Barajas says. “It's unfortunate that workers rights aren't protected in a sense that corporate rights are protected.”

Always keen on aesthetics, OCMDC has brightly colored flags marked with various human rights like education, migration, culture, housing and peace.”They are what we consider to be necessary components for a good life,” Barajas says, “a life that every human should have access to.”

Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2

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