Union Square, NY — On May 1st, 2012, local grassroots Filipino organizations under the banners of BAYAN-USA and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), joined the annual militant protest actions in New York City as a contingent to commemorate May Day, or International Labor Day. These organizations played vital roles in the months of preparations leading up to the day, in conjunction with the May 1st Coalition for Workers and Immigrants Rights, who have traditionally organized the Union Square rally and march since 2006.
This year is historic, as the May 1st Coalition was joined by three other groups, including labor unions, other immigrants rights organizations, and Occupy Wall Street, in a united rally and march down Broadway that ended at Wall Street. They carried the message: “A Day Without the 99%: Legalize, Organize, Unionize!”
Florida 15 Trafficked Workers March on May Day
The Filipino contingent was also joined by the Florida 15, or F15, a group of workers who were trafficked from the Philippines between 2007-2009 by Jose Villanueva who owns the U.S.-based San Villa Ship Management Company. The F15 spoke during the May 1st Coalition program at the South Plaza of Union Square.
“We were given a job different from the contract that we signed. We were paid below minimum wage with no overtime pay, given delayed salaries that some of us didn’t have for how many months. Because of this, we experience sleepless nights, stress, and discomfort,” said Givenchy Alberto, one of the F15 workers.
Building up to May Day, the F15 conducted several actions to advance their campaign. These included a meeting with the Philippine Consulate General on April 23, where they discussed the Philippine government’s expected role and responsibility in helping its people. The meeting was supported by a rally organized by NAFCON and BAYAN-USA outside the Consulate.
The F15 also conducted a community forum on April 25, with the help of Filipino youth group Anakbayan New Jersey and NAFCON. Community members brainstormed ways to bring light to their issue and committed time and energy to support the trafficked workers in their fight for their immediate demands.
“I am speaking in front of you not only to open your eyes that Human Trafficking is happening not only in the Philippines and in the US but in the whole world, but also to inspire and to encourage those people who who were abused to fight for your right not only as a worker but as a human!” Alberto said as a closing statement.
F15 and other members of the Filipino contingent carried slogans on life-sized passports such as “Justice for F15”, “Stop Trafficking Our People”, “Stop Deportations” and “Legalization for All” throughout the day.
Filipinos on Workers’ and Immigrants’ Rights
Other members of the Filipino contingent also spoke in the program with topics ranging from youth and students, immigration, forced migration and national liberation struggle in relation to the workers’ struggle.
“On this day, the Filipino immigrant youth are in solidarity with all workers and immigrants. The trafficking of immigrant workers to the United States is fueled by the greed of U.S. imperialism. Imperialism depletes third world countries of valuable resources and creates an exploitable reserve of cheap labor out of their people, including the youth,” Yves Nibungco, Chairperson of the progressive youth group, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, said.
Michelle Saulon, the North East Coordinator of NAFCON, demanded, “We must end the criminalization of all immigrants. Immigrant workers are the backbone of the American society. We must denounce the rate of deportations in President Barack Obama’s administration which are at an all time high, and call for the legalization of all immigrants.”
Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of BAYAN-USA, declared, “We must unite and build solidarity between the workers of the Philippines and of the United States. We must intensify our fight against imperialism to win genuine democracy for the working class!”
Taospuso, a singer-songwriter and organizer from SanDiwa, the youth arm of NAFCON, presented a tri-lingual cultural performance to agitate the protestors present in the park.
May Day Solidarity March to Wall Street
At 5:30 pm, the march started right after the unity rally, occupying both lanes, making Broadway, the road taken by May Day marchers every year, impassable for vehicles. Broadway going downtown is one of the routes where workers in New York City are concentrated.
At the frontline of the 100,000-strong march to Wall Street, national leaders from NAFCON and BAYAN-USA, along with the May 1st Coalition, other immigrant organizations, labor unions and Occupy Wall Street, led the chants, “End the deportations! Legalization now!” upon approaching the Federal Plaza, where many immigration hearings and deportation proceedings are held.
Upon reaching Wall Street, marchers started chanting “We are the 99%!” the chant popularized when the Occupy Wall Street movement started in the last quarter of 2011.
Representatives from member organizations of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) and the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) — international alliances with hundreds of grassroots member organizations around the world — were also at the frontline of the May Day march for workers’ and immigrants’ rights. ###
LONG LIVE THE WORKERS AND IM/MIGRANTS!
LONG LIVE INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY!
Jonna Baldres, Deputy General Secretary of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON)
and Marina Diaz of May 1st Coalition leading the chants in the front of the march (Photo by Roberto Reyes Ang)
The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns [NAFCON] is a national multi-issue alliance of Filipino organizations and individuals in the United States serving to protect the rights and welfare of Filipinos by fighting for social, economic, and racial justice and equality. It was launched in San Jose California in 2003. At present, NAFCON members encompass over 23 cities in the United States. For more information on NAFCON, please visit: http://nafconusa.org