At May Day Chicago, Mainstream Left No Longer Distanced from Radicals
Not too many people remember May Day last year. Of course, a few videos and images made their way onto the cables before the evening news that Sunday. But as I was going through footage of the Haymarket Riot Reenactment in Chicago that I covered earlier that day, news broke of a big announcement coming from the White House and nobody knew what it was. About 15 minutes later, hundreds of college kids were chanting “USA, USA,” outside the White House, celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Subsequently, there was zero coverage of May Day. Sure, you could find it if you looked for it, but as I recall, the images and videos that presented an accurate picture of the International Labor Movement’s most cherished day of the year were lost in the excitement of America’s greatest enemy--greatest enemy of the past 10 years, that is.
America's other greatest enemy--communism, socialism, anarchism, left wing collectivism, neo-liberalism, or what ever you want to call it--was alive and well, and it was on the move. And thanks to a strange coincidence, that evening, all those evil entities once again passed by, operating under the cover of darkness, right under our noses. And they were allowed to thrive for one more year, virtually undetected by mainstream Americans who simply don’t have time to keep up with the ongoing revolution.
What is the key difference between then and now? Back then, the union bosses, the unionists, the radical progressive caucus members, and the rest of the Democratic Party were still calling all those communists and anarchists in the street a “fringe element—protest vultures.”
“You can’t lump the whole the group into one category,” I remember Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky telling me one night this past January during an interview. Yet that didn’t stop her or any of the other Occupiers, union members, and “civil rights” leaders from marching “as one, in solidarity.” Not as long as it helped them increase their crowd sizes and the impact of their intimidating tactics.
Two days ago at May Day in Chicago, however, the tone changed--at least, the tone of those who claimed they were “together but separate.” First off, the number of radical organizations at least matched the number of unions. There were no protest vultures here; everywhere you looked was a radical group. The Communist Party U.S.A. was in the house, along with the Progressive Labor Party, the American Party of Labor, Black Bloc anarchists, the Revolutionary Communist Party, Democratic Socialists of America, and the list goes on and on. Along with them were the trade unionists; the Teamsters Union, Unite Here Local 1 (the hotel and hospitality workers union), National Nurses United, Postal Workers, and even the Association of Street Vendors--who by the way, had no clue why they were there or what their signs said, and still found it more important to protest than to use the protest as a place to set up their push carts and have a productive, successful day.
I wondered whether there was anything different about this year’s annual May Day celebration and whether or not these trade unions and union bosses, more specifically, felt they were marching in solidarity--as one--with these radical elements, or if they thought they represented something different. And what surprised me the most was that everyone I asked--not just a few--no longer had any problem marching alongside communist and anarchist revolutionaries.
I spoke with the Executive Vice President of Unite Here Local 1 Karen Kent and asked her how she felt about the overwhelming presence of communist and other far left-wing radicals at the march, and she said, “We feel part of the broad movement here in Chicago … We don’t have a problem … we march with a lot of folks everywhere, who want to part of social-justice and change.” The President of the Teamsters Union Local 743, Donnie Von Moore, responded, “I don’t have a problem with it.” Even a member of the National Nurses United that we spoke to, also said, “I understand it, a lot of people fall in the category of the 99%.” This comment drew even more interest from other citizen journalists present, causing Von Moore to lose his cool and shove one of their cameras away.
Von Moore, coincidentally, was recently elected as president of the Local 743, allegedly under shady circumstances after International Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. apparently, wrongfully removed a union reformer, the sitting president of that union. Teamsters Fight Back reports, “Von Moore has long been on the shady side of 743 affairs. Just months ago he presided over a giveaway of the defined benefit pension for close to 1000 workers at Rush University Medical Center. Nursing home administrators supported Von Moore, knowing he would take them back to the ‘good ol’ days’ of undercutting contracts of other SEIU unionized nursing homes in the area.”
During his remarks on stage at the end of the rally in Federal Plaza, Von Moore took it one step further. Apparently, concerned that his comment to me on camera would be published, he clarified his remarks. Doing so, he expressed an even deeper feeling of solidarity with communists, fascists, and others by exclaiming, “that is the 99%, we all have to stand together, to fight what we think is injustice in our country, and stand for what we think is right ... So that’s why I am proud to say that who ever is here, that represents 99% of this country, of our people, that we just need to stay together, and continue to fight, until there is no fight left.”
This marks a dramatic turn in the previously prevailing attitudes of the union bosses and members--from marching in solidarity separately to proudly marching together for their common cause. That common cause is now crawling out of the shadows where it has lurked since the Cold War supposedly ended and managed to stay under for one more year, thanks President Obama’s bold actions [sarc] to kill Bin Laden last year on May Day, or at least announce it to the general public.The evidence is now clear in Chicago, the birthplace of the International Labor Movement, that this movement has the momentum it has hungered for over the past 30 years. Their forces are united, and they are now coming out of the shadows, shining in full red.