Thousands gather for May Day rallies, marches held across Los Angeles area

Wednesday, May 1, 2024
Hundreds gather for May Day rallies, marches held across LA area
The theme of the march is "Solidarity is Power: The People United." The Los Angeles May Day Coalition says the demonstration will bring together support for better wages and more.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Rallies and marches were held in Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles and Boyle Heights Wednesday to mark International Workers Day, also known as May Day, continuing a tradition dating back to the 19th century.

People gathered for a rally at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and North Gower Street in Hollywood which was followed by a march, ending with a second rally at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

The theme of the march was "Solidarity is Power: The People United." The Los Angeles May Day Coalition said the demonstration sought to bring together support for better wages, housing for all, a path to citizenship, the right to strike, and calls for a ceasefire in war-torn areas and an end to all wars.

The coalition includes the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, United Teachers Los Angeles, the Service Employees International Union, IATSE Local 839, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Communist Party USA and Democratic Socialists of America - Los Angeles.

In the lead-up to the day, the various contingents prepared posters, banners and flyers to signal their presence. Organizers asked people to wear the color red.

A demonstration at MacArthur Park was held, calling for "Worker Power Worldwide!" and "Don't Comply with Genocide!" Organizers said after the gathering at the park, there would be a march to the USC campus "to support the pro-Palestinian encampment."

The ninth annual May Day Boyle Heights was set to begin at 4:30 p.m. with a rally for immigrant and worker rights at Mariachi Plaza, 1831 First St.

Call for ban on California rent control

Before Wednesday's events, some labor groups met to discuss the Justice for Renters Act, which will be on the November ballot.

The act will remove California's ban on rent control and will allow cities and counties to expand it.

A May Day demonstration at MacArthur Park in the Westlake District called for "Worker Power Worldwide!" and "Don't Comply with Genocide!" before marching to USC.

"Working out contracts to make sure that they make enough money to afford an apartment, the cost of rent is outpacing these wages," said Susie Shannon, the policy director for the Housing is a Human Right organization. "So even when you get a wage increase, it's typically eaten up by rent increases."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2023, there were more than 2 million union workers in California.

In 2024, labor unions are saying, even with minimum wage increases going into effect in 2024 that boosts the pay to around $20 an hour, it's still barely enough.

"While thousands of people, many of whom are students in our schools are facing the uncertainty of whether they can pay rent, the uncertainty whether they will remain housed and are fearful of facing eviction every single month," said Gloria Martinez with United Teachers Los Angeles.

Overall, there was a mix of optimism - some feel things are getting better for workers while others raise concerns about the high cost of living. Xochitl Covarrubias with United Steelworkers simply wants fair wages.

"Our rent is increasing but our wages are not increasing," she said.

"I am optimistic that things are going to get better," said Darrell Aranda with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). "We've got much better communication. People are recognizing that the work that they do needs to be respected, and they're willing to band together and do it with each other."

May Day Boyle Heights was organized by Centro CSO, whose May Day demands include legalized status for everyone who has entered the United States without authorization, protecting public education and community control over the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Labor groups have conducted rallies and protests on May 1 since 1890, originally commemorating the anniversary of the Haymarket affair on May 4, 1886, when what began as a peaceful rally in Chicago's Haymarket Square in support of workers striking for an eight-hour workday ended with an unknown person throwing a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the meeting.

The blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians. Eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy in a trial their supporters called unfair and a serious miscarriage of justice. Seven were sentenced to death and one to a term of 15 years in prison.

Illinois Gov. Richard Oglesby commuted two of the sentences to terms of life in prison while another committed suicide in jail before his scheduled execution. The other four were hanged on Nov. 11, 1887. Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld pardoned the remaining defendants in 1893 and criticized the trial.

City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.