Labor’s May Day participation expands in Tucson; organizers spotlight Amazon class struggle
Courtesy of Aidan Ingold.

TUCSON, Ariz.—Until recently, May Day events in Tucson attracted mostly members of left political groups—socialists, communists, and anarchists. The observance would include a march and rally that celebrated the internationalism of this workers’ holiday with little relation to the class struggle taking place in our community. A few labor union members participated, but the unions mostly stayed away.

Things changed in 2018 when Arizona teachers rose in a militant revolt against low pay and underfunded schools. Teacher walk-outs were spreading across the state, and as May Day approached, the local AFL-CIO labor federation called for a large May Day action in solidarity with the teachers. This decision changed the way people observe International Workers’ Day in Southern Arizona.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on Tucson May Day events, but only for a short time.

In 2022, the Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF) decided to observe May Day the traditional way by stressing not only the holiday’s internationalism, but also by emphasizing the tradition of 1886 by taking militant action around pressing working-class demands.

Courtesy of Aidan Ingold.

This year, for the second year in a row, Tucson observed May Day with a rally and demonstration at an Amazon distribution center. Amazon was chosen because it’s an international labor exploiter and Arizona labor wanted to show solidarity with the numerous union-organizing drives at the retail giant’s facilities across the country and the world.

Participating in the 2023 event were members of AFSCME, USW miners, Musicians, Machinists, SEIU, IATSE, AFT, Writers Union, Tucson Education Association, Defenders United, and the United Campus Workers, as well as Jobs with Justice, Salt of the Earth Labor College, and others.

At the rally, PALF organizer Ryan Kelly pointed to the increased interest of working people in joining unions and detailed a list of successful union drives taking place in Arizona since the easing of the pandemic.

Following the action, many in the crowd joined a celebration by the Casa Maria Catholic Worker collective on their 40th anniversary in Tucson and their 90th anniversary nationally. Casa Maria has been a staunch ally of Tucson’s labor movement for all of those 40 years.

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Joe Bernick
Joe Bernick

Joe Bernick is the Director of Salt of the Earth Labor College, Tucson, Arizona.