Local progressive groups hold celebration for May Day

Junior Gustavo Zuñiga, first-year Audari Tamayo, and senior Terrence Freeman show their support of unions. Photo by Adam Fleischer.

Multiple organizations including Appleton Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), United Action Oshkosh (UAO), and Waking Women Healing Institute (WWHI) gathered at Houdini Plaza on Sunday, May 1st at 1 p.m. in celebration and expression of May Day.

International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day and International Labor Day, is a celebration of labor and the working class. May Day was started by workers who were demanding a living wage and 8-hour shifts. Countries worldwide celebrate May Day with their own recognized holidays.

The celebration started off with a chant.

“I don’t know but I’ve been told, the people here are mighty bold, there’s one thing that’s clear to me, the people here have unity,” chanted Aodhan Bowman, a member of FRSO, along with almost everyone else there. “Lies and threats will not divide, the people standing side by side. I don’t know what I’ve been told, the people here are mighty bold.”

The speakers vocalized a need for workers’ rights and intersectional solidarity. Speakers also contrasted May Day with Labor Day as celebrated in the United States of America, which they claimed was created to dilute the labor movement by co-opting a less revolutionary idea to celebrate workers.

Junior Gustavo Zuñiga, first-year Audari Tamayo, and senior Terrence Freeman show their support of unions. Photo by Adam Fleischer.

“May Day is a day in which you recognize that working-class people uphold the world around us, make sure the world is running,” said Senior Terrance Freeman, founder and Chair of Appleton SDS. “We are trying to uphold working-class solidarity internationally. […] Labor Day is meant to detach the working class struggles in the United States from that of the rest of the world.”

Dan Pratt, who works at Oshkosh United Parcel Service (UPS) as a package handler and is a shop steward for the Teamsters Union, talked about the significance of May Day. He discussed the history of the Haymarket affair, where eight anarchists were hanged in Chicago during a fight over labor rights, as well as why he thinks unions are necessary and how the existence of Labor Day takes away from the goals of the movement. He urged workers to fight against capitalism’s efforts to make them work on low wages and long hours.

Hollie Poupart from (UAO), a multi-issue progressive organization, talked about the intersection between police violence and labor rights and the need for better systems of protection for laborers. She talked about the reaction against police brutality and how it is bringing the working class together.

Appleton SDS Co-chair and FRSO member Terrence Freeman speaks about the historical gains of the labor movement, and the struggles faced by it today. Photo by Adam Fleischer.

Renee Gralewicz spoke on behalf of (WWHI), a group that supports Native American victims of violence, especially women and queer people. She started off her speech with a land acknowledgement, pointing out that Houdini Plaza is on stolen Menomonee land. She expressed hope that people will realize the intersectionality that exists between indigenous women and the workers movement. She pointed out how women and specifically indigenous women are disproportionately affected by terrible working conditions and hours.

Similarly, Adria Jean Warren, a local trans rights activist who also works with Food Not Bombs, an anti-war organization, talked about the intersection between transgender rights and workers’ rights.