Union members, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and hissupporters, anarchists and socialists gathered in the North ParkBlocks to march through downtown Portland this Saturday inrecognition of May Day, also known as the international workersholiday.
“May Day started out as the struggle for the eight hour day,”Mark Downs, an International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19member, said.
The controversial theme of this year’s march was the quicklyapproaching presidential election. Presidential candidate DennisKucinich spoke at a planned stop in the march.
Some felt Kucinich’s presence at the march was not fitting withthe history of May Day. “We hate that a presidential candidate ishere – we didn’t come here for that,” said Jane, a PSU student, “Weare here because we care and want to show support [for workersrights].”
“Politicians have sold us working people out before,” Dan Davis,a former PSU student and member of the Industrial Workers of theWorld, said. “His people hijacked a lot of other people’sorganizing for this event. This is May Day. I kinda feel like[Kucinich] should leave us alone.” Davis said he supported agrassroots approach to political organizing.
Kucinich responded to criticism of his presence by saying hecame from a labor background and has been a member of theInternational Alliance of Theatrical State Employees.
“My presence here today is in solidarity with all those heretoday and their issues,” Kucinich commented to a crowd assembled atthe corner of Northwest Everett Street and Eighth Avenue.
Kucinich outlined his platform, which includes issues such aspeace, healthcare for all, overturning the USA PATRIOT Act, andworkers rights.
“Mayday is about recognizing the long history of workersstruggle,” Kucinich yelled from a podium on a flat bed pickuptruck.
Despite the controversy over a presidential candidate attendinga workers holiday, unionists, community organizers and PSU studentsall had something to say.
Stacy Wolf, a member of the IWW 650 social services branch spokeat a pre-rally at her union hall on 6th and East Burnside. Wolf andher fellow workers recently won union recognition at the Portland’sWomen’s Crisis Line. She cited benefits and wage increases as gainsher union will obtain during its first contract negotiation. “It’swonderful, festive, and empowering to stand up with other workers,”Wolf said.
People milled about at 6th Avenue and East Burnside, drinkingcoffee, debating and telling stories.
In the Back to Back Cafe, a worker owned cafe that shares abuilding with the IWW hall, ILWU Local Eight member Jack Mulcanhywas chatting with other longshore union members, telling a storyabout their union.
“We organized the unemployed in the 1930’s … only when workersbanded together did they make gains.” Mulcanhy said. “May Day isworking class struggle to better our own working conditions.”
The Portland Peaceful Response Coalition carried a banner thatquoted the 19th century Russian anarchist Michael Bakunin, reading”Liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice, socialismwithout liberty is slavery and brutality.”
IWW members had planned on marching on the sidewalk, saidJefferson 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 onelane on Burnside Street. Portland Police Bureau Lieutenant DominickJacobellis 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 inthe street,” Jacobellis commented.
Johanna Brenner, the PSU Women’s Studies department chair tookpart in the feeder march. Brenner commented that she was”acknowledging a historic movement for workers rights to organizewithout interference from their employer, the right of safety and aliving wage, and the right to a eight hour day, which Bush isdestroying.”
Michael Conner, a Portland State University Faculty Associationmember commented, “All over the world employers are creating fewerand fewer jobs and the ones they create are part-time withouthealth care … workers all over the world are protesting.”
The feeder march was greeted with cheers when it arrived at theNorth Park Blocks. Angel Stone, a self-identified PSU dropout,commented that “I’m really glad that the longshore was marchingwith the anarchists … the solidarity is going both ways.”
Wolf spoke again at the North Park Blocks on the subject ofrevolution. “Revolution is such a dirty little word, but we allyearn for it,” Wolf said. Wolf laid out a program for revolution,saying the empowerment of rank-and-file workers and joiningtogether into “one big union” would lead to “taking back what isours.”
Wolf asserted that workers are capable of running their ownlives, saying “workers’ revolution means we never have to make thedecision between health care and food again. We will have access tohealth care, leisure time, food, and housing.”