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Albany labor activists mark May Day with local rally

Representatives of local unions and progressive organizations gathered to celebrate International Workers' Day on April 30th, 2022, at the Washington Park Lake House and Amphitheatre, Albany, NY.
Dave Lucas
/
WAMC
Representatives of local unions and progressive organizations gathered to celebrate International Workers' Day on April 30th, 2022, at the Washington Park Lake House and Amphitheatre, Albany, NY.

Representatives of local unions and progressive organizations gathered Saturday in Albany's Washington Park for a May Day rally.

Around the world, May 1st is known as May Day, or International Workers’ Day.

But Art Fleischner of the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District and the Troy Area Labor Council says the occasion to recognize the struggle of workers is not as widely celebrated in the U.S.

"I know in past years, many cities, towns, villages all over the country have recognized May Day and have had a celebration," said Fleischner. "But not quite sure how many around the country will do it this year. There is a discussion, as you know, of increased organizing at Amazon – a phenomenal event on Staten Island, the Starbucks workers at over 200 locations around the country. So hopefully that increase the number of May Day celebrations."

Fleischner is a longtime organizer for the decades-old gathering.

Kaleb Winters chairs the Upper Hudson Green Party. He says the pandemic re-shuffled the workforce's ideas and values.

"I definitely think people reconsidered what their lives are like," Winters said. "They've had time to pause, which they hadn't had previously. So yeah, I definitely think people are changing their values, reevaluating their values and what they're getting out of work, paywise and otherwise."

Citizen Action of New York lead organizer Gabriel Silva says the labor movement and the unions are the reason workers have so many rights today.

"They were not given to us," said Silva. "They were fought for. There were extremely tough battles that were fought so we can get these rights. And we can't forget that. And it's a good reminder that, you know, the fights that they had to have then, we're having to have now. And the only way that we're ever going to win these fights is by following their example, which is by organizing. Whether it's unions, tenants, unions, industry unions, or just you know, different community organizations such as Citizen Action, the only way that we're ever going to be able to protect our people, give people stable housing, protect them from evictions, give people health care, properly fund their education. The only way we're going to get any of that is by bringing people together."

Though Americans recognize Labor Day in September, local organizers say they would like to see more May Day celebrations as ongoing unionization efforts gather national attention.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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