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May Day, an American Holiday

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May 1, 2008

Today is May Day and immigrants in New York, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Denver and in many other cities across the country are marching demanding immigrants’ rights. It’s fitting that this day that commemorates the Haymarket labor riots has for the last three years been chosen as the national day of mobilization for immigrants.

The first May Day in 1886 was a massive national strike led, by and large, by America’s immigrant workers. Thousands of workers nationwide and in Chicago walked off their jobs to take part in demonstrations for shorter work days. Then, as now, employers’ abuses of immigrant workers drove down wages and standards for all workers.

Despite its American birthplace, May Day is celebrated officially almost everywhere else but here. But immigrant labor in the U.S. is rising up once again and marching, giving new life to the legacy of 1886 in the country of its origin.

The problems the marches bring to our attention such as due process and the rule of law are important to us all, and don’t just affect immigrants but every person in this country. One of the issues highlighted today, directly related to labor rights, is the Department of Homeland Security’s ‘no match’ rule, which would unlawfully use the error-ridden Social Security Administration (SSA) database for immigration enforcement by forcing employers to fire workers whose names do not match their Social Security numbers. The rule would punish hardworking lawful workers, deny jobs to U.S. citizens and cause discrimination and retaliation against workers who may appear foreign or who assert their workplace rights. And because of the difficulty resolving errors in the SSA database, if this rule goes into effect, 165,000 lawful U.S. workers could lose their jobs according to a recent study by an economist.

Such unjust rules go against core American values of fairness and equal opportunity and impact everyone whether they have been in the U.S. one year or for generations. Thanks to those who are marching today for reminding us.

Happy May Day. A marchar!

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