About 250 activists gathered downtown on Sunday (May 1, or May Day) to rally and march from City College to Chicano Park in support of workers' rights, higher wages, reduced immigration enforcement, and lower incarceration rates, among other things.
"May Day is something that gets more recognition abroad than here, even though it's a tradition that started in the United States," said Gloria James, the rally's emcee.
The date has long marked a celebration of spring, but for more than 100 years it has also been synonymous with agitation for workers' rights in remembrance of Chicago's Haymarket riots in early May 1886.
This year, organizers’ officially declared theme was "workers' rights have no borders," with an emphasis on fair treatment for undocumented workers, who activists say are more susceptible to employer abuse.
"Economic rights are not charitable donations given to us by good-hearted rich people, but instead they are won through struggle in the streets," explained a flyer being handed out to spectators as the group marched through the downtown streets.
"I'm happy to see people with a broad list of issues coming together," said Roselva Gomez, a fast-food worker for the past 15 years, speaking with the aid of a translator. "Economic justice is also racial justice, it's also immigrant justice."
Other speakers praised activist efforts to secure a $15 minimum wage, set to take effect statewide by 2020, as well as a more modest wage increase proposal that will be placed before city voters on the June 7 primary ballot. Still, they warned, by the time these proposals take effect, even $15 might not be sufficient.
"In San Diego, the fifth-most-expensive city in the United States, the price of food, transportation, and housing will not remain frozen until 2020" when the statewide wage floor finally hits $15, organizers say.