“We are the workers, mighty mighty workers, organized workers, everywhere we go, people want to know who we are, so we tell them,” a crowd chanted down Nassau Street, stopping traffic, and eliciting honks from car horns riding down the street.
The crowd also focused on immigration, chanting “no borders, no nation, stop deportation,” and “no human being is illegal.”
Around 150 Mercer County area residents and workers, as well as University students and staff gathered with picket signs, banners, and megaphones, demanding equal rights for workers and migrant workers in the local Princeton and New Jersey community on May 1. The event was held as an annual demonstration in recognition of International Workers’ Day, otherwise known as May Day.
Unidad Latina en Acción NJ (ULA) organized the event and was joined by the Our Revolution Trenton Mercer, Princeton Mutual Aid (PMA), the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Casa Freehold, and the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, among other groups. Members of student groups, such as the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), Divest Princeton, as well as the Princeton Graduate Student Union (PGSU) added their support.
It was an important connection between off-campus labor groups and student groups as multiple labor efforts on campus proceed in parallel, including for graduate students, postdocs, and service workers.
The crowd congregated at 6 p.m. at 112 Witherspoon Street to hear speeches and recite chants before marching through Palmer Square and down Nassau Street and Washington Road to a tent behind Wallace Hall at 7 p.m, where they heard more speeches and danced to music as the march concluded.
ULA and those marching had eight demands related to labor rights and immigration policy. Their demands include wanting a worker’s center in Princeton, “just” immigration policy, and the New Jersey Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
May Day this year comes as ULA, along with YDSA, PGSU, Princeton College Democrats, the Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP), the Princeton Progressive, Divest Princeton, and Students for Prison Education, Abolition, and Reform (SPEAR) recently endorsed a petition for “fair and decent working conditions for Princeton University Service Workers.”
All of the co-signers support automatic, annual, cost of living adjustments that meet or exceed US dollar (USD) inflation, reinstating workers’ right to strike, and providing affordable childcare, among other things. According to the petition, Union contract negotiations are scheduled to take place in 2023.
In regards to wages at Princeton, the President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 175, Jeff Coley, said in a speech to the crowd that “175 is in a constant struggle with this University in our rights and our pay. They may have brought up our wage a little bit, but it’s not enough.”
Elias Kleinbock, a graduate student and organizer for PGSU who led many of the chants, said in an interview with the ‘Prince,’ that he believes that PGSU shares a similar fight to those of migrant workers and staff workers in the Princeton community.
Over the last few months, PGSU has been collecting signatures from students in the hopes of unionizing with United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. PGSU received a majority of signatures from graduate students in their union card campaign.
“Making it possible that Princeton, the town and New Jersey, the state is a fairer, more equitable place. I think that it’s really important,” he said. “[PGSU and ULA’s] fights are … not only comparable, but require one another.”
“Building these relationships and solidarity is extremely important,” he added.
Vera Candiani, an associate professor of history at Princeton, gave a rousing speech about broader implications of May Day and workers’ rights in her speech and in an interview with the ‘Prince.’
“We have more than 12 million undocumented workers who have been waiting for the political system to grant them rights,” she told the ‘Prince.’
“I’m out here to try to help organize a community because the only way to achieve it is through struggle,” she added.
Brady Rivera, Trenton Mercer County Chapter Chair of Our Revolution, told the ‘Prince’ why he felt it was important to get involved. “This goes for immigrant communities and non-immigrant communities,” he said. “We want you to come out and learn your rights and make those demands and really reap what you are worth and not let yourself get taken advantage of.”
Workers’ rights as a shared civic responsibility resonated as a recurring theme throughout the evening.
Melissa Guzman, a teacher at YWCA Princeton, grew up on Lee Avenue and now is working and raising a family in Princeton.
“I want to make sure that we raise awareness throughout the community as we are raising infrastructure,” she said. ”With the amount of socioeconomic disconnect that we have, we really want to just build awareness that we are all going to be united, working together, and building this community to be better and for all.”
Aaron Molina ’26 explained to the ‘Prince’ that it was important for him to come to the protest as a member of the Latino community.
“Workers’ rights have been marginalized and I believe that Latinos are a part of that group,” he said. “I wanted to support my own people in that way.”
“I hope that people see that there is strength in coming together,” Maria Evans, a member of PMA, added in an interview with the ‘Prince.’
Rivera explained how he hopes the May Day march expands over the years.
He explained that this year brought out “at least double the members” since the march last year.
“Because this march is an annual one, I think one of the biggest goals is growing it, making it a lot more visible, and bringing a lot more people into it,” he said.
Lia Opperman is an associate News editor for the ‘Prince.’
Rebecca Cunningham is an assistant News editor for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.
Correction: an earlier version of this piece inaccurately named the President of SEIU 175. The ‘Prince’ regrets this error.