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Hundreds gather in Union Park to fight for rights for workers on May Day

Many marchers came to the event this year to draw particular attention to the struggles of immigrant workers.

Hundreds gathered at Union Park Saturday for a May Day rally that advocated for essential workers, undocumented immigrants and an end to police brutality.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Hazael Gomez-Torres is the son of two immigrants who came to the United States from Mexico to seek a better life for their family.

But it’s been difficult for his parents to turn their dream into a reality, Gomez-Torres said Saturday as he joined hundreds of others for a May Day rally in Union Park. The annual gathering for International Workers Day pays tribute to the history of the labor movement and the struggle for worker’s rights.

Like Gomez-Torres, many marchers came to the event this year to draw particular attention to the struggles of immigrant workers. The Brighton Park resident said his father has struggled to advance in his career and has only seen a wage increase of $4 an hour over the past 20 years.

“Our experience is not unique,” Gomez-Torres said. “So many immigrant families have to navigate a country where they are underpaid, exploited and criminalized just because they were born in another country.”

Hundreds of advocates for the rights of workers gather at Federal Plaza for a May Day rally Saturday in the Loop.
Hundreds of advocates for the rights of workers gather at Federal Plaza for a May Day rally Saturday in the Loop.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Flags from all over the world — including the Philippines, Mexico and Palestine — flew in the breeze at Union Park as people listened to speakers before embarking on a 2.5-mile march to Federal Plaza.

Min Hee Cho, a community leader with the HANA Center, came to the United States from South Korea with her family when she was 4. Cho and her sister have needed to provide financial support for their parents, who were among the millions ineligible for federal COVID-19 relief aid due to their immigration status.

“The current immigration system grants itself the power to deem who is worthy or unworthy of citizenship,” Cho said. “It pits our communities against one another when we are fighting for the same thing ... a chance to build our futures in this country with the people we love, for the people we love.”

Min Hee Cho speaks during a May Day rally that advocated for essential workers, undocumented immigrants and an end to police brutality.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Cho said policies — like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) — are “not enough.”

“It has been over 30 years since Congress has passed any major legislation for immigration reform,” Cho told the crowd. “Meanwhile, my life and the lives of my loved ones hang in the balance. We are tired of waiting, tired of these politicians’ lies and broken promises, tired of being political pawns. It’s time for us to take the power back.”

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill) also spoke to marchers Saturday, telling them he believes that major developments could happen this year.

“It’s time for those leaders to respond in kind to one of the most important demands of the community, which is immigration reform and decoupling the immigration and the criminal justice system, because it causes so much suffering and hardship to so many people in our country,” Garcia said.

Contributing: Pat Nabong