New York, May 1 (EFE).- Hundreds of workers, a large number of them Latino immigrants, on Monday commemorated International Workers Day in New York City with a march through the streets of Lower Manhattan during which they demanded better working conditions and pay, giving undocumented migrants the right to work, the legalization of sexual work and for greater respect for their labor.
Slogans such as “Workers united will never be defeated” and “Yes, you can” – first articulated by agricultural workers’ rights activist Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) – were loudly chanted as the marchers and members of nine organizations from different sectors, including immigrants’ and prisoners’ defense organizations, unions and legal services, moved through the Big Apple,
Street vendors, domestic workers, restaurant and cleaning workers, porters, construction workers in their hardhats, members of the LGBT community and transgender sex workers, among many others, gathered Monday morning on Washington Square, near New York University, where amid a festive atmosphere with Latino music and assorted signs they made their demands and concerns known.
One of those demands is for the City Council to approve a bill that would prevent unjustified firings and would obligate bosses to provide an explanation for terminating an employee.
In addition, the demonstrators want the state government to give the green light to a program to create the “Unemployment Bridge Program” so that workers without work permits, domestic workers and independent workers can receive an income if they lose their jobs, a situation that affected many thousands of people during the coronavirus pandemic.
This, in particular, was the main concern of Carmen Canela, who works in the restaurant sector, a single mother with three kids. “I don’t have unemployment insurance and I’m not the only one. We (came here) seeking a better future and we’re finding an uncertain future,” she said amid the cheers of other workers carrying signs – some of them in Spanish – saying things like “The workers’ struggle has no borders,” “Support immigrant workers,” “Excluded no more” and “Without essential workers, the US is nothing.”
The construction workers made their voices heard over the issue of workplace safety and demanded minimum pay of $40 per hour in the kind of job that has cost many workers – many of them Latinos – their lives.
This year, among the demonstrators were transgender sex workers who are seeking legalization for their activity.
Sex worker Nathan Brown said the marchers wanted to make clear that “sex work is work” and that sex workers are demanding rights and protections, adding that she has been discriminated against for being a transgender woman, a situation that others have also experienced and are thus unable to find employment.
She said she’d been to different places to ask for work but the bosses look her up and down and tell her they’ll call her but never do. Because of that, she added, many transgender women stop working in the sex industry so that they can get other employment to be able to send money to their families, pay their debts and “put food on the table.”
She said that “it’s time” for the state legislature to decriminalize “the buying and selling of sex among adults.”
The workers set out from Washington Square to the sound of drums and other instruments, surprising many passersby, many of whom took photos or videotaped the colorful and peaceful protest.