Hundreds march through Chicago to mark International Workers Day

Several hundred people gathered in Chicago's Federal Plaza on Sunday to mark International Workers' Day, a holiday created to commemorate the Haymarket riot that happened near Union Park.

The May Day rally brought together union workers, immigration activists, socialists and communists in a show of solidarity, pushing for higher wages for tipped workers, immigrant and abortion rights and racial harmony, among other things.

"On this May Day I want to honor the millions of workers who are still fighting for better salaries and safer working conditions," said Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-Illinois). "It shouldn't have to take a pandemic to improve working conditions for those that have to keep our country running. But I'm encouraged to see warehouse workers in New York recently voted to formally unionize."


Another May Day rally started in Union Park and marched past the site of the 1886 Haymarket Riot.

On May 3 that year, Chicago police killed one worker and injured seven others who were striking for an eight-hour workday. A rally the following day at Haymarket Square decrying the brutality also turned violent when police tried to disperse the crowd and a bomb was set off, leading to chaotic response, dozens of injuries and the deaths of seven cops and at least four bystanders.

Andy Thayer, of Chicago for Abortion Rights and the Gay Liberation Network, compared the  hurdles faced by those currently advocating for social, racial and economic justice to the fight Chicago workers undertook in 1886.

"Back in 1886, it was a strike not just for the eight-hour day," Thayer said. "It was for dignity for immigrant labor to deal with the oppressive conditions they faced, not just the exploitation. And we move forward to 2022, and we’re facing many of the same issues."

Thayer insisted that reproductive and LGBTQ rights are now under serious threat as some politicians focus on "waging war" abroad and attempt to "throw immigrants under the bus."

Saul Arellano, the son of immigration activist Elvira Arellano, noted that immigrants became "the frontline workers that kept this economy going" during the pandemic.

"A lot of them lost their lives. A lot of them did everything for this country," he said. "And it is today the reason why we stand alongside them, and we stand ready to fight for their rights."

Arellano’s mother gained national fame when she took refuge in a Humboldt Park church in 2006 after being convicted of using a false Social Security number to gain employment as an airplane cleaner at O’Hare Airport. Although she was eventually deported, she’s now back in Chicago fighting for asylum.

"Today, we stand here united as a family letting you know that if you fight, if you keep doing this, we will receive justice," he said. "But unfortunately, we need to understand that myself and the rest of our communities are still under attack and that we still need to keep fighting for them and we still need to keep fighting for each other."

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.