With a recent peak of interest in immigrant and labor issues spurred by the contract resolution of UC workers in early February, local May Day celebrations will ensure that this important day is not overlooked. Events planned for the week of May 1, which is known as International Workers’ Day, will serve as a testament to the social and economic achievements of the labor movement.
Locally, the May 1 festivities will be centered on marches and rallies for immigrant and worker rights, starting at UC Santa Cruz in the Quarry Plaza and ending at San Lorenzo Park. The marches have been a May Day and Labor Day tradition for 119 years and serve to inform the Santa Cruz community about the current labor issues.
Laura Barringer, a third-year feminist studies major from College Ten, is a member of the Movement for Immigrant Rights Alliance. Barringer has been involved in the labor movement since her senior year of high school.
“The recent May Day marches have brought critical attention to the issues that immigrant communities and working communities are facing, and mass awareness is the first step to making change,” Barringer said.
Locally, Santa Cruz citizens and students participating in the rallies will be protesting the budget cuts to workers and students in underrepresented and marginalized communities, and protesting the deportations and foreclosures.
Also on May 1, the Reel Works Film Festival, which began in late April, will continue with a film screening at the Watsonville City Plaza of a work entitled “Golden Lands, Working Hands.” The film is a reflection on California’s history through the perspectives of working people, and has a focus on farm workers and teacher organization.
The director of “Golden Lands, Working Hands,” Fred Glass, is a labor history instructor at San Francisco City College as well as a communications director for the California Federation of Teachers. Glass expressed that a film screening is a powerful way to recognize the labor movement’s influence and to educate people on the history of labor rights.
“I made [the film] because labor history is an underground and unknown history,” Glass said. “Working people are the overwhelming majority of the nation and the world.”
Reel Works will also feature UCSC alumni and student films throughout the ongoing festival, which ends May 4. The student films will encompass all different aspects of labor issues.
The California Faculty Association and the Student California Teachers Association are sponsoring the Reel Works Film Festival for the second year in a row. These organizations are deeply rooted in the importance of educating the public about the labor movement.
“Both organizations feel strongly that we need more education about labor struggles in the United States and around the world,” said Jennifer Colby, Ph.D. lecturer for the liberal studies and service learning institutes at CSU Monterey Bay. “The Reel Works film festival provides an opportunity to see the most recent films that document these struggles.”
Colby feels that especially during the economic crisis universities are facing, teachers and students alike are experiencing labor issues firsthand.
“Teachers and professors are workers too,” Colby said. “We work for the state of California, so today we have very special needs in the face of budget cuts.”
In addition to those special needs, Barringer spoke of the broader issues that motivate her activism for the cause of labor rights.
“I am involved because I believe that we are a nation of immigrants and, in the end, we are living on stolen land,” Barringer said. “So how can we have a debate over which human beings are legal and which ones are not?”