Sunday, May 1, 2011 – On International Workers’ Day, Valley organizations rallied at McAllen’s Archer Park to promote workers’ rights and immigration reform. Organizers encouraged attendees to stand in solidarity with workers and to learn to organize to recover stolen wages, fight budget cuts, defend their dignity, and bring democracy to their jobs and schools.
“Whatever our background or station in life, we are all workers, we all have dignity, and we all deserve respect,” said Marlene Chavez, representative of Fuerza del Valle, a new workers’ center that helps workers recover stolen wages.
Gerardo Cruz Garcia, who worked at a taqueria in Mission, shared how he recovered stolen wages by uniting with La Union del Pueblo Entero. His manager strung him along without paying him for 3 months. When LUPE organizer Cris Rocha sent the owner of the taqueria restaurant chain a letter saying he would be taken to court if he did not pay, the owner quickly agreed to pay Gerardo what he was owed.
Teachers and students were on hand and spoke out against the proposed state cuts to education, which would increase class sizes and decrease students’ access to higher education.
“Who here knows that there are over 60 pieces of anti-immigrant legislation being considered in the state legislature?” asked Martha Sanchez, Organizing Coordinator of La Union del Pueblo Entero. The legislation ranges from increasing ICE and local law enforcement collaboration, to revoking birthright citizenship, to bills attempting to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students.
Despite the many bills targeting the immigrant community, Marlene reminded us that “with everything going on these days, everyone’s being affected. Whether you are documented or not, we all need to unify.”
Rebecca Flores, former state director of the United Farm Workers in South Texas, reminded those in attendance that politicians will not do what’s right unless the public pressures them. “If you don’t organize, change will not happen automatically,” she said.
The rally ended with a call for increased solidarity between immigrants and workers of all kinds, reminding those in attendance that the labor movement fought hard for gains like the 8 hour day and over time pay.
No rally would be complete without a call to action. Participants were invited to take action this Thursday, 5 de Mayo, when the Equal Voice Network will be honoring La Batalla de Puebla with our own Batalla del Pueblo to demand an end to ICE/police collaboration. The picket will happen in front of the McAllen Police Department at 6pm on May 5th.
Check out all the beautiful pictures by Guy Hallman and Jose Martinez here.