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May Day article in PSU's Daily Newspaper

Fight for your right
A diverse group celebrates May Day with a common connection of working class identity

Jered Fisher -  jeredf@vg.pdx.edu
May 04, 2004


Union members, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and his supporters, anarchists and socialists gathered in the North Park Blocks to march through downtown Portland this Saturday in recognition of May Day, also known as the international workers holiday.

"May Day started out as the struggle for the eight hour day," Mark Downs, an International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 member, said.

The controversial theme of this year's march was the quickly approaching presidential election. Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich spoke at a planned stop in the march.

Some felt Kucinich's presence at the march was not fitting with the history of May Day. "We hate that a presidential candidate is here - we didn't come here for that," said Jane, a PSU student, "We are here because we care and want to show support [for workers rights]."
 http://www.dailyvanguard.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/05/04/409739576e62c

Fight for your right
A diverse group celebrates May Day with a common connection of working class identity

Jered Fisher -  jeredf@vg.pdx.edu
May 04, 2004


Union members, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and his supporters, anarchists and socialists gathered in the North Park Blocks to march through downtown Portland this Saturday in recognition of May Day, also known as the international workers holiday.

"May Day started out as the struggle for the eight hour day," Mark Downs, an International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 member, said.

The controversial theme of this year's march was the quickly approaching presidential election. Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich spoke at a planned stop in the march.

Some felt Kucinich's presence at the march was not fitting with the history of May Day. "We hate that a presidential candidate is here - we didn't come here for that," said Jane, a PSU student, "We are here because we care and want to show support [for workers rights]."

"Politicians have sold us working people out before," Dan Davis, a former PSU student and member of the Industrial Workers of the World, said. "His people hijacked a lot of other people's organizing for this event. This is May Day. I kinda feel like [Kucinich] should leave us alone." Davis said he supported a grassroots approach to political organizing.

Kucinich responded to criticism of his presence by saying he came from a labor background and has been a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical State Employees.

"My presence here today is in solidarity with all those here today and their issues," Kucinich commented to a crowd assembled at the corner of Northwest Everett Street and Eighth Avenue.

Kucinich outlined his platform, which includes issues such as peace, healthcare for all, overturning the USA PATRIOT Act, and workers rights.

"Mayday is about recognizing the long history of workers struggle," Kucinich yelled from a podium on a flat bed pickup truck.

Despite the controversy over a presidential candidate attending a workers holiday, unionists, community organizers and PSU students all had something to say.

Stacy Wolf, a member of the IWW 650 social services branch spoke at a pre-rally at her union hall on 6th and East Burnside. Wolf and her fellow workers recently won union recognition at the Portland's Women's Crisis Line. She cited benefits and wage increases as gains her union will obtain during its first contract negotiation. "It's wonderful, festive, and empowering to stand up with other workers," Wolf said.

People milled about at 6th Avenue and East Burnside, drinking coffee, debating and telling stories.

In the Back to Back Cafe, a worker owned cafe that shares a building with the IWW hall, ILWU Local Eight member Jack Mulcanhy was chatting with other longshore union members, telling a story about their union.

"We organized the unemployed in the 1930's ... only when workers banded together did they make gains." Mulcanhy said. "May Day is working class struggle to better our own working conditions."


Photo: Matt Wong
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have a long history of supporting labor rights causes, and had a strong presence
Around 100 IWW members and supporters marched from their union hall in an un-permitted, "anti-capitalist" "feeder" march to the main May Day rally. Drummers provided a beat that was accompanied by a chant of "Class War!" ILWU Local eight, IWW, and the Laborers International Union banners were carried and red and black anarchist flags were mixed in among the feeder march.

The Portland Peaceful Response Coalition carried a banner that quoted the 19th century Russian anarchist Michael Bakunin, reading "Liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice, socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality."

IWW members had planned on marching on the sidewalk, said Jefferson Laffey, an IWW member, "but we were hoping to take a lane (of the street) ... we accomplished more than we planned."

Motorcycle and bicycle cops contained the feeder march to one lane on Burnside Street. Portland Police Bureau Lieutenant Dominick Jacobellis said the police were making sure the "anti-capitalist" marchers made it to the May Day rally safely.

"We're not going to get into a tiff of tattle over you guys in the street," Jacobellis commented.

Johanna Brenner, the PSU Women's Studies department chair took part in the feeder march. Brenner commented that she was "acknowledging a historic movement for workers rights to organize without interference from their employer, the right of safety and a living wage, and the right to a eight hour day, which Bush is destroying."


Photo: Matt Wong
Marchers head down a downtown street Saturday afternoon.
Brenner connected May Day to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying it is a protest against "the working class being used for imperialist war ... the working class is sent to die for the interests of the rich."

Michael Conner, a Portland State University Faculty Association member commented, "All over the world employers are creating fewer and fewer jobs and the ones they create are part-time without health care ... workers all over the world are protesting."

The feeder march was greeted with cheers when it arrived at the North Park Blocks. Angel Stone, a self-identified PSU dropout, commented that "I'm really glad that the longshore was marching with the anarchists ... the solidarity is going both ways."

Wolf spoke again at the North Park Blocks on the subject of revolution. "Revolution is such a dirty little word, but we all yearn for it," Wolf said. Wolf laid out a program for revolution, saying the empowerment of rank-and-file workers and joining together into "one big union" would lead to "taking back what is ours."

Wolf asserted that workers are capable of running their own lives, saying "workers' revolution means we never have to make the decision between health care and food again. We will

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Correction 04.May.2004 11:45

PWCL'er

"cited benefits and wage increases as gains her union will obtain during its first contract negotiation."

Just wanted to make a correction to the goals of union staff at PWCL. We are not looking to gain raises or benefits as of ratification of the first contract. What staff is asking is that management make every effort to secure funding for these things within one fiscal year, and at such time that funding is secured negotiations will be reopened to discuss monetary issues.