It’s spring. The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining (somewhere), and once again Portland's left-leaning populace is shaking its collective fist at the man.
This Sunday, May 1, the People’s Republic of Portland will be out in force to celebrate May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, a commemoration of the mass protests in the 1880s and 1890s that brought the eight-hour day to the world’s industrial democracies.
Organized by a coalition that includes Portland-area unions, Portland Jobs with Justice and immigrant rights organizations, the celebration will begin at the corner of Southwest Park Avenue and Salmon Street at 2 pm.
Much of the organizing energy that created the eight-hour day came from immigrant laborers who had been exploited by factory owners during America’s Gilded Age. Romeo Sosa from VOZ Workers’ Rights Education Project—a Portland-based group representing immigrant day laborers—says he sees a connection between these early struggles and those faced by immigrants today.
“I think the struggle workers had for the recognition of the eight-hour working day is the same struggle we have with day laborers here today,” Sosa says. The organizer says his group is currently helping 39 day laborers fight their employers for lost wages in separate instances of “wage theft,” which Sosa defines as an employer either not paying a laborer at all or paying less than promised.
How far have we come since the 19th century? Decide for yourself. A day laborer representing VOZ will be speaking with the aid of an interpreter at Sunday’s events.