As May Day fast approaches, recent upticks in labor activism have illustrated what can be achieved with persistent advocacy, coordination and action. Unionization drives at Starbucks and Amazon have helped publicize the concerns of workers who have been key pieces in the pandemic economy, workers who have also often borne the brunt of “essential” work. It is inspiring to see the level of activism that has been elevated by autochthonous leadership. This is the energy that feeds the expression of community-based power.
As in previous years, Seattle will host another May Day march, one of the longest running of such events on the West Coast. The tenor of the event is as much a celebration of recent happenings as it is a call to action as we collectively shake off the effect of the pandemic. The ask for continued engagement makes sense. Even as the pandemic raged on, people on the social and economic margins struggled to meet their needs, illustrating a bifurcated reality that folks lived in before, during and even now with normalization of life with COVID-19.
The pandemic certainly impacted our community in different ways. The economic need for multi-generational households impacted poor and working-class people with increased risk to elders. It’s a consideration that doesn’t factor as strongly with folks of economic privilege. Besides the social toll afflicting economically marginalized people, we also see a compounding impact as eviction moratoriums have lapsed. Repayment of back rent is also often cost-prohibitive, with rents increasing and wages not keeping pace to offset these rising costs. Similarly, even as challenges persist in Seattle, they continue elsewhere, too.
The plight of Ukrainian refugees, for instance, illustrates the inhumane policies at the southern border which prohibit social, economic and environmental refugees from attaining relief. Likewise, the same entities that have been separating and incarcerating migrants continue as policies from previous presidential administrations resume uncontested. This is another point that activists are also continuing to address this May Day.
May Day allows for all these matters to intersect. It is important to amplify the work that has led to victories that even a few years ago may have appeared daunting. It is also critical to continue engaging in the work to humanize people who are actively taking risks to meet their material needs. May Day embodies a push for economic justice and a push for anti-oppressive action. It allows us to reflect on our lived reality beyond simply how we perceive our economic worth. It challenges us to see ourselves as more than the monetary sum of what we can produce for others. Let’s keep organizing our communities.
Read more of the Apr. 27-May 3, 2022 issue.