Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, labor activists, students and supporters of immigrants' rights gathered in Union Square and marched to City Hall Wednesday to call for improved pay for low-paid workers, cheaper education and improved immigration laws. NY1's Polly Kreisman filed the following report.
Even before marching the two miles or so to City Hall, the hundreds of local labor leaders and rank-and-file workers gathered in Union Square made one message very clear: all people have the right to work, and to work in a fair and just environment.
"We believe that no human being is illegal. We think that we need to support the rights of immigrants and really push to build a movement to tie it home, with all these working-class issues," said Justin Kennedy of Socialist Alternative.
The kaleidoscope of groups supporting immigration reform, including activists from Occupy Wall Street, said May Day is the perfect occasion to lean on lawmakers in Washington.
"This is International Workers' Day," said one marcher. "It's a Labor Day around the world. Unlike here in the United States, where Labor Day ends summer, around the world, Labor Day begins spring. It's a new beginning."
An estimated 11 million people live in the United States without documentation. Wednesday's May Day rally, and dozens of others across the nation, focused on a bill in Congress that includes a path to citizenship for them.
The loud and colorful march down Broadway was in many ways reminiscent of Occupy Wall Street. The heavy police presence also reminded New Yorkers of last year's protests. However, given its roots, this annual demonstration also made sure to stress its union connection.
"The prosperity of our country and the whole middle class depends on organizations like unions," said one marcher. "It's no coincidence that in the last 30 years, as the percentage of people in unions has gone down, so has the standard of living of the middle class gone down."
The immigration bill will heat up in Congress soon, and while you wouldn't expect anyone in the May Day rally to oppose it, some did say they feel its 13 year waiting period for citizenship is far too long.