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‘Humanity flows in the streets on May Day within us and among us’

By: Victor Narro

The time has come for the 2024 May Day march in Los Angeles. The annual May Day march, which celebrates International Workers Day, is one of the biggest community engagement events in Los Angeles. Thousands of people march to show solidarity with workers and community members to raise awareness of labor, housing, and immigration struggles across our city and the nation.

This past year, Los Angeles became the epicenter of the nationwide wave of worker strikes and uprisings. Hotel workers, actors and writers of the entertainment industry, city workers, academic workers, teachers and school employees, janitors and other workers have engaged in strikes, mobilizations and other actions to fight for better wages that keep up with living costs, benefits, affordable housing and other quality of life issues. The Los Angeles Worker Center Network, a coalition of worker centers from different low-wage industries, has been moving policies in L.A. City Council to strengthen enforcement of the City’s living wage.

The route this year will be different from the one in past years when we marched in Downtown L.A. from Olympic and Broadway to City Hall. This year, we will march through Hollywood Boulevard, since it represents the “entertainment capital of the world” and it is considered a key economic epicenter in Los Angeles. Additionally, we will be in solidarity with union workers such as hotel workers, janitors, and entertainment workers who are in contract negotiations or on strike with corporations along this route.

For the past 25 years, May Day in Los Angeles has become a special part of my work for justice. For many of these marches, I have served as lead coordinator for the march, lead legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles, and today as an active participant in the May Day Coalition. The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor have been among the key groups anchoring the coalition. In recent years, the Coalition has grown significantly to become a model that is truly inclusive, diverse and intersectional of different movements. This year, the coalition is composed of dozens of labor unions, faith-based groups, and immigrant and human rights organizations. They represent families, workers, immigrants, people of faith, renters, homeowners, LGBTQI folks and other voices representing the diverse communities of Los Angeles.

Although many see May Day as a one-day event, the May Day coalition work leading up to it has become a beautiful process of community building, deepening our trust in one another and learning about all our different campaigns for justice. May Day in Los Angeles is the culmination of this collective process, and what evolves from it is the diversity of activities, cultural performances, speakers, and most importantly, the large mobilization of workers and community members from throughout the City.

Humanity flows in the streets on May Day within us and among us. We embrace it to create a deep sense of solidarity and interconnectedness with one another. Within this flow comes out the love and compassion that we have for one another as activists and our communities. The “aliveness” of our work for justice happens on May Day. In my book The Activist Spirit: Toward a Radical Solidarity, I focus on the inner core of the work for justice from which we can deepen our solidarity with each other. It is in this place where we create strong interconnectedness and radical solidarity with one another, with workers and with our communities. On May Day, we celebrate our radical solidarity and collective struggles for justice.

Victor Narro is a Project Director for the UCLA Labor Center and Core Faculty for the UCLA Labor Studies Program.