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“Workers Have Power”: Thousands Rally in NYC for May Day, Call for Solidarity with Palestine

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Workers around the world rallied Wednesday to mark May Day, with many calling on the labor movement to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. In New York, Democracy Now! spoke to demonstrators who demanded that U.S. unions apply political pressure for a ceasefire in Gaza and to stop their government’s arms trade with Israel. “Workers do have the power to shape the world,” said Palestinian researcher Riya Al’sanah, who was among thousands gathered at a May Day rally in Manhattan.

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StoryDec 26, 2023Labor Demands a Ceasefire: UAW, Electrical & Postal Workers Call for Israel’s Assault on Gaza to End
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org.

We end today’s show on yesterday’s May Day activities in New York. Thousands of students, workers and others rallied in Foley Square in Lower Manhattan to mark May Day.

JAMIL MADBAK: Jamil Madbak. In this current moment, after seven months of Zionist aggression against Gaza, is to underscore that there is a popular movement in support of Palestine, not just the students that are mobilizing, but also organized labor across the United States. That’s really important. After the mass arrests yesterday, we saw faculty at CUNY announce a sickout for today. We saw NYU faculty announce a grade strike. And we’ve seen other actions being taken in support of the students.

We know the United States manufactures bombs that are being dropped on the people in Gaza, the Palestinians, and the Arab population, more broadly. And in that sense, having an organized labor movement that is willing to advocate for the Palestinian struggle, to chip away at the strength of Western imperialism, more broadly, is essential. And for the Palestinians, the inverse is true. Like, it is our mandate to be part of a broader left in this country to help to struggle for worker rights here, understanding that a stronger labor movement means less of an ability to enact this destructive foreign policy.

PROTESTERS: Occupation no more! Occupation no more! Free, free, free Palestine! Free, free, free Palestine!

RIYA AL’SANAH: My name is Riya Al’sanah. I’m a Palestinian researcher, an organizer with the Workers in Palestine initiative. We at Palestinian unions have been organizing and calling for the colleagues in the labor movement and unions internationally to stop arming Israel.

So, since the call in October, on the 16th of October, workers internationally have galvanized and organized in solidarity with the call. We have seen workers in Barcelona port declare that they will not be — they will be stopping arms shipments destined to Israel. Workers in Belgium and transport workers have blocked the supply of weapons to Israel. At the Port of Oakland, we also saw workers here in the U.S. take concrete solidarity and action. Internationally, workers have been organizing in their workplaces and in their unions in solidarity and to heed the call. We see this also with the UAW here in the U.S. and other unions who have been calling for ceasefire and picking up the call from Palestinian workers and Palestinian unions.

This year, May Day comes at a moment where we Palestinians are subjected to a kind of undescribable onslaught, an undescribable violence. And it’s an important moment in our history to remember that workers do have the power to shape the world. Workers do have the power to influence kind of what happens not only locally, but to influence processes of colonial violence and dispossession on a bigger scale.

The very brave students and faculty on campuses in the U.S. advocating for divestment of Israeli — of military industries is a prime example of the entrenchment of militarism and military industries to all aspects of our lives, including our educational institutions. These campaigns at the moment amplify how the campaign, the call from Palestinian workers to stop arming Israel is a transformative demand for all of us to be involved in on campuses, in our various workplaces, as well.

JULIA THERESE BANNON: As a UAW member and as the president of my local, UAW must use its political power to put teeth into their call for a ceasefire. I am done with the narrative that this is a right-wing attack on free speech. This is the Democratic Party attacking free speech. This is Joe Biden attacking free speech. This is Chuck Schumer attacking a local. These so-called Democrats are the ones threatening our democracy by silencing anyone who speaks against their genocide. UAW must revoke endorsements of these politicians, if they want to make good on their call for a ceasefire.

BHAIRAVI DESAI: I bring you message of solidarity from the 28,000 members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. We are here to say to Genocide Joe that as long as your bombs are there, we will remain here. How today, on International Workers’ Day, a day that is normally full of pride and celebration, but since October, we cannot have a day that feels like joy or celebration, because the level of death and destruction, it is crushing to our sense of being a human being.

HEALTHCARE WORKER: I stand here before you today as a member of Healthcare Workers for Palestine, New York City. This is a lot closer to them. So, I’m just going to forewarn that I’ll be speaking about the mass graves, that our media has so intentionally neglected. Last weekend —

PROTESTERS: Shame! Shame!

HEALTHCARE WORKER: Last weekend, at least 283 bodies were found in a mass grave in Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis in Gaza. These bodies, our families’ bodies, were found three meters into the ground, covered in waste, headless, skinless, organless, some of them zip-tied, and some of our healthcare workers still in their scrubs.


HEALTHCARE WORKER: Three days later on Democracy Now!, we find out it wasn’t 283 bodies. It was at least 300. Three days after that, we find out it’s at least 400. And, y’all, we’re tired of playing this game of numbers.

NYU STUDENT: I am speaking to you as a student from the NYU encampment in solidarity with encampments and workers across the globe. To our administrations, we’re not going away. We hold our ground. We say to our administrations, to be suspended for Gaza is the highest honor.

PROTESTERS: Free, free, free Palestine! Free, free, free Palestine!

AMY GOODMAN: Special thanks to Hana Elias, Charina Nadura and Messiah Rhodes. Those voices from the Foley Square rally on May Day.

And that does it for our show. Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Hana Elias. Our executive director is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, for another edition of Democracy Now!

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Labor Demands a Ceasefire: UAW, Electrical & Postal Workers Call for Israel’s Assault on Gaza to End

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