Orange County workers unite in Anaheim to advocate for living wages and celebrate International Workers Day

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Workers march in Anaheim for International Workers Day
(Diane Ortiz / Daily Titan)

Workers from all over Orange County came together for the May Day March & Rally in honor of International Workers’ Day on Tuesday morning.

The group of advocates was made up of union and nonunion workers and community groups. The goal of the march was to fight for living wages and remember the workers of the past who worked for low wages and no benefits.

“We are standing up for the national holiday for workers … We’re looking for the workers in the future that need to be represented by labor and need to have a voice in the workplace, need to have justice, affordable health care, dignity and respect,” said Gilbert Davila, president of the Orange County Labor Federation, which hosted the march.

On May 1, 1886 the first May Day celebration took place when, across the United States, over 300,000 workers from 13,000 businesses walked out of their jobs. The protest was in response to employees who struggled with working 10 to 16 hour shifts in poor conditions. Over a hundred years later, the workers of the past are honored, and current employees march every first of May.

The event began with an optional mass at the St. Boniface Church in Anaheim. The group then gathered together in the parking lot of the church where Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem Jose F. Moreno welcomed participants with a short speech of support.

The Korean Resource Center, which is based in Buena Park and Koreatown in Los Angeles, also joined the march. Members from the center played Korean drums throughout the event to show their support for the cause.

“We participate in a lot of marches in Orange County and actions because we’re supportive of workers rights, immigrants rights and we support health care for all. We came out today just to support the workers, especially all of the workers of Disneyland,” said Ashley Yu, the communications and development manager for the center.

Davila said Disneyland Resort employees and supporters went door to door, throughout April, to find registered voters in the city, and collected over 20,000 signatures to raise wages.

The petitions asked for living wages for resort area workers, and aim to put the issue on the November voting ballot for the City of Anaheim.

The marchers submitted those petitions at the Anaheim City Hall after speeches were made by Disneyland resort workers for the rally portion of the day.

The average hourly wage for Disneyland Resort workers has dropped 15 percent from 2000 to 2017. More than two-thirds of the employees are food insecure and three-quarters of Disneyland Resort workers with children under 18 are food insecure, according to Economic Roundtable.

The rally ended at Pearson Park where union workers and community members spoke about their struggles in the workforce.

“I’m tired of playing defense and I think it’s time for labor to be on the offense. It’s time to start pushing these initiatives not only in Anaheim but all through Orange County, all through California and all through the United States,” said Matt Bell, executive vice president of UFCW Union Local 324, a food and commercial workers union.

Davila said organized marches for workers are important because they give workers a voice and hope for the future.

“The risk (if nothing happens) is what’s happening right now, a spiral downward,” Davila said. “Homelessness is on a rise and a lot of (the homeless) are union members that work for big employers that don’t give a livable wage, affordable health care and a pension plan for their workers.”

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