May Day — also known as "Workers' Day" or "International Workers' Day" — is an annual holiday set aside to pay homage to the historic struggles (and storied gains) made by labor movements. And the pandemic’s only highlighted those wins and losses, particularly regarding essential workers.
A simple Google search using "May Day" as the keyword will yield a myriad of results. Baltic countries largely celebrate the day as an ushering in of spring and seasonal frivolity; the Swedes light bonfires and drink good amounts of schnapps; Bulgaria has historically recognized the day as a time to engage in certain rituals — formalities meant to protect people from snakes, lizards, and other vilified fauna. But for the most part, western European countries and the United States recognize May Day as a calendar reminder to commemorate labor efforts, doubling as a time to also call for advancing workers' rights.
In the Bay Area, from San Jose to Oakland, the central messaging around May Day 2021 was crystal clear: recognize that fair wages and access to affordable health care and housing are human rights.
San Francisco saw a large group convene at the Embarcadero and later march toward city hall, where speakers were lined up; one of them in attendance was none other than multi-hyphen activist, author, and teacher Angela Davis. Dozens of bikers and vehicles pulled out of the parking lot near the Lake Merritt BART station Saturday afternoon, zig-zagging their way across downtown — the group trailed by ralliers on foot holding signs that called for increased wages and protections for essential workers. San Jose saw more than 200 people march through the streets of the city’s downtown, putting a spotlight on Latinx communities and workers that’ve been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Needless to say: Saturday's May Day happenings were unlike any other in recent memory... given the state of the world and amid growing support for the PRO Act — which is presently the labor movement's single biggest legislative priority in Congress. (If passed, the PRO Act would provide protections to workers trying to organize, limiting what companies can do to disrupt union membership campaigns.)
To save you from going down even deeper internet rabbit holes, below are some notable moments from this weekend's May Day demonstrations around the Bay Area.
HAPPENING NOW. Just some of the thousands at the San Francisco #MayDay #InternationalWorkersDay parade🔥✊💪— Alyssa Kang (@1alyssakang) May 1, 2021
We’re marching from the Embarcadero to Civic Center (rally at the end!)
JOIN US!@sflabor @AlamedaLabor @CoCoLabor @sobaylabor @SanMateoLabor pic.twitter.com/17M4V0vl71
#ForeverOakland— Forever Oakland (@ForeverOakland) May 2, 2021
(Mob Alley in the District 6).
•HISTORY MAKING MAY DAY, OAKLAND CITY WIDE WITHIN ALL 7 DISTRICTS KICKED OFF ON MOB ALLEY. WE RAISED THE BAR.
-SAT MAY 1ST, 2021-
"ROB BONTA / NATE MILEY DAY IN MAKING OAKLAND BETTER."https://t.co/Mw5D38F8rg pic.twitter.com/BB4rjCh8j8
Image: Twitter via @DSAEastBay