The Labor and Immigrant Movement

In commemoration of international worker’s day 2011, a speech made by IYJL organizer Lulu Martinez, at the re-dedication of the Haymarket Memorial, in Forest Park, IL

We’re here celebrating the history of the labor movement and honoring the Haymarket monument and what it stands for today- our right to freedom of speech, our right to organize but most importantly the perseverance the labor movement has shown for the last 125 years. As an undocumented youth persistence, courage, and speaking up are ideals that I share with organizers of present and past movements, like the Haymarket martyrs.

The Haymarket martyrs were primarily immigrants fighting not only for an 8 hour work day but also for equal opportunity, equal access, and the right to contribute to their communities. In return they asked only to be treated with dignity and respect. These are the asks of undocumented youth today. We are students, mentors, taxpayers, organizers, activists and workers. We, along with our peers from other social movements, encompass the principals on which the U.S. was established.

One hundred and twenty five years ago, a small group of organizers helped bring together workers, families and folks from every walk of life at Haymarket Square. Although the numbers may have been small, the group that gathered demonstrated that they were not willing to remain silent while their rights as workers were being denied and the people speaking out were being persecuted. They continued to mobilize at a time when the law did not seem to be on their side- something that at that point in American history was radical, different, and scary.

A year ago, a small group of undocumented youth began mobilizing other undocumented youth from all parts of the city. We came out as undocumented and unafraid in Federal Plaza and publicly shared our stories and our struggles. We did so because we believe that it is necessary to speak out and represent ourselves within this larger movement for immigrant rights and social justice. We cannot and will not remain silent and in the shadows any longer, while our rights are denied and being taken away.

We have learned from generations before us that in order to achieve the recognition and equal rights we deserve, we need to come out and share our stories and give a name and a face to our movement. We took the same courage the Haymarket martys had and shared our status and asks- something that at that point in American history was radical, different and scary.

However, the struggle for equal opportunity, for dignity, for respect, and for our right to organize did not stop on May 4, 1886 or March 10, 2010. It continued and it continues with us here today. As undocumented youth , as workers, as daughters, sons, cousins, and friends who work long shifts trying to pay for tuition or other daily essentials of life, they are simple concerns which any working person can relate to.

Had it not been for the risks and sacrifices that the Haymarket martyrs and organizers from other movements had taken, often with flesh and blood, we would not be standing here today talking about moving forward. And were it not for the numerous organizations and individuals, both old and young, that believe in the idea of equality , we will not be moving forward.

So I ask you to stand beside immigrants, undocumented immigrants, and undocumented youth because we cannot continue moving forward without the support of our communities and the leaders in other movements. I am here standing with you in your struggle, our struggle for social justice.

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