Lynn union representatives, activists join workers for annual May Day march

This article was published 4 year(s) and 4 month(s) ago.

Hundreds of people packed outside of City Hall Wednesday for Lynn’s annual May Day march. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — For more than 100 years, workers around the world have been fighting for fair wages and better working conditions. With hundreds of people packed outside of City Hall rallying before the city’s annual “May Day March for Immigrant and Worker Rights,” it’s clear the fight is still in progress.

The city’s union representatives, activists and members of various community groups joined workers around the world who took part in similar May Day marches on Wednesday. Since the 1880s, May Day has shared a date with International Workers’ Day.

The city’s march wound through downtown Lynn and ended at the Lynn Museum.

“For working people, life can be a struggle 364 days a year, but on May Day, the 365th day, we come together, we celebrate and we fight together,” said Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council.

Gene Giacobbe, a representative from UFCW Local 1445, which represents Stop & Shop employees, highlighted their recent 11-day strike against the grocery chain’s top officials that eventually resulted in a better contract for workers.

“This company tried to break the union this year,” Giacobbe said. “(A better contract is) all because they stood up to corporate greed. You need to stand up and fight just like these people did. When you fight, you win.”

In addition to activists advocating for a living wage and union reps pushing for “fair contracts,” a focus was also placed on the fight against wage theft. But Lynn’s march, organized by the Lynn May Day Coalition, which is comprised of various community groups, featured other local battles as well.

The Lynn Teachers Union advocated for full funding for the Lynn Public Schools, citing a recent report that showed the city’s schools were underfunded by $47 million annually;  Lynn United for Change called for more affordable housing in the city; and the Essex County Community Organization spoke out for immigrant rights with a representative saying through a translator that she was marching against ICE and their oppressive practices.

Sheila O’Neil, president of the Lynn Teachers Union, and Beth Kontos, president of AFT Massachusetts, were on hand with a large group representing the “Fund Our Future” movement, advocating for a revamp of the outdated Foundation Budget Formula, which they said has been underfunding the state’s schools for more than 20 years.

“In Massachusetts, we are underfunded by over $1 billion each year,” Kontos said. “We believe that receiving a great education should not depend on your zip code.”

Drenusha Jusufi, a member of Lynn United for Change, told the crowd that everyone has a right to housing, but argued that the city is only building luxury apartments for the rich, citing the Munroe Street development, rather than inclusive affordable housing for people of all income levels.

“We want development, but it needs to be development that helps us and doesn’t push us out of our own city,” Jusufi said.

Members of the crowd also took a stand against hate and anti-Semitism, observing a moment of silence in the wake of last week’s deadly shooting at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., a city north of San Diego. The suspect is also under investigation in the arson at a nearby mosque in March.


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