May Day Action Calls for Immigration Strike

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday April 28, 2006

This May 1 could become the day without immigrants if calls to boycott schools and work by national and local immigrant organizations are heeded all over the United States. 

“The Great American Boycott 2006, A Day Without An Immigrant” calls for a nationwide general immigration strike on May 1 to protest the current anti-immigration bill.  

San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley will be the Bay Area locales for a co-ordinated action that includes 100 cities across the nation, said Siu Hin Lee, spokesperson for the National Immigrant Solidarity Network. 

The Mexican “Nothing Gringo” campaign scheduled for May 1 has drawn criticism from U.S. lobbyists—as well as the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico—who feel that U.S. Corporations lobbying the U.S. Congress for immigration reform are being wrongly targeted in this campaign. 

“No Work! No School! No Buying! No Selling!” screams an El Gran Paro poster distributed by Mayday in the Bay, an informal group of organizers and activists that got together in the San Francisco Bay area to support the call for a General Strike on May 1. The Los Angeles-based March 25th Coalition against HR4437 called the strike to help defend immigrant rights. 

The group plans to hold rallies around “local symbols of economic trade,” such as stock exchanges and anti-immigrant corporations. The organizers are asking participants to wear white and bring pots, pans, spoons, and noisemakers to the May 1 actions. 

From the government, they are demanding “full, unconditional and immediate ‘amnesty’ for all immigrants,” “de-militarization of the U.S. Mexico border,” and “the repeal of NAFTA and all neoliberal trade agreements which create economic conditions leading to the displacement of people,” among other things. 

Closer to home, the Berkeley May 1 Mobilization Committee, an ad hoc coalition of ten student groups, campus workers, and community members, have planned a student and worker walkout and rally on Sproul Plaza at noon Monday.  

“There’s a lot of excitement on campus right now,” said Michael Smith, a spokesperson for the group. “People are beginning to understand what a big movement this is becoming. It’s going to be huge. Berkeley has always had a history of activism and this will definitely help to revive that.” 

Smith added that similar rallies and walk-outs have also been planned at San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, UC Santa Cruz and other schools across the U.S. 

“There have always been immigrants in America, but immigrant workers have never been given the dignity they deserve,” he said. “They have always been exploited and it’s time to fight for their liberation, their rights. The fact that they are slowly finding their voice is taking people by surprise.” 

Berkeley’s Inkworks Press on Seventh Street will also be hosting their annual May Day event on Monday. Now in its sixth year of May Day celebrations, Inkworks will be getting together with the Network of Bay Area Workers Co-operative to celebrate May 1. The party, with a barbecue, dancing and music, starts at noon and will go into the evening, and is located at 2827 Seventh St. 

“We celebrate labor in its most liberated sense,” said Innosanto Nagara, who formerly worked for Inkworks and is now with Design Action Collective, a spin-off of Inkworks. “We want to give May 1, the International Worker’s Day, the importance it deserves.” 

Independent businesses around the area, such as Arizmendi Bakery Co-op, Tinker’s Workshop, and Pedal Express will also be celebrating the day. 

In San Francisco, the SF Workers Co-operative will observe May Day, as will Rainbow Grocery and the Lusty Lady. 

International Boulevard in Oakland will be the venue of a mass march organized by high school BAMN (Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary). Student organizers will be taking a stand against “racist, second-class treatment of Latinas/os, immigrants, and all minorities,” according to organizers. 

“History is only made in key moments, and this is a key moment for people to come together and demand equality. This is the start of a new civil rights movement and we will not be intimated,” Yvette Felarca, one of the organizers, told the Planet..