The annual May Day celebration of worker solidarity drew hundreds of people to City Hall Park on May 1, including members of the UFT and other unions and advocacy groups. Union leaders, activists and elected officials called for fair wages, job safety and immigrant rights.
“When we think about worker rights, immigrant rights and civil rights, it’s about everyone,” said Sterling Roberson, the UFT vice president for career and technical education high schools, in his address to those at the rally. In New York Harbor, the inscription on the Statue of Liberty says ‘Give me...your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ and that speaks to the diversity that made this city and this country great.”
It was difficult for the UFT members at the rally to ignore that just an hour before, inside City Hall, the new UFT contract proposal was announced by UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
“We’re happy about the new administration, and the new mayor and chancellor, but it’s not just about us,” Roberson said after he left the stage. “This rally is about the entire city of New York, and the workers who built it. It’s only fitting that we celebrate labor’s contributions.”Elizabeth Espert, a teacher, UFT chapter leader and pension consultant at PS 191 in Manhattan, said she read the news about the contract in text messages from the union and a colleague.
“From what I’ve read, I’m extremely pleased,” Espert said. “I was at the UFT Spring Conference, and I heard Mayor de Blasio and Carmen Fariña, and they were genuine and respectful. They understand what we do.”
For Charlai Newkirk, a paraprofessional at East New York Elementary School in Brooklyn, the contract was proof that making your voice heard in rallies such as May Day can influence policy.
Elected officials, including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Comptroller Scott Stringer also addressed the crowd.