For the first time in many years, our branch was invited to be on the organizing committee for the May Day march in Vancouver this year, along with members of several other unions including the HEU, BCGEU, ILWU, and UFCW. We were happy to participate, and glad to see the more traditional unions in Vancouver reaching out to us.
The march itself came together fairly smoothly, with the event logistics getting sorted out in a timely manner by an active and competent organizing committee. The ILWU in particular provided some great resources, including a flatbed trailer with a PA system that allowed speakers to deliver their speeches while the march was underway.
Between 2pm and 3pm on the afternoon of May 1st, contingents from various labour and political groups filtered into Jack Poole Plaza, the starting point for the march. The crowd was a mixed bag of union members and leftist activist groups, but members of traditional unions were the largest contingent by far.
By the time the march began, around 200 people were present. While smaller than we had hoped, it was enough to give the march a decent street presence once it was underway. Given that this is the first May Day march in the new location under a new organizational structure, we’re optimistic that it will continue to grow over the years ahead.
There were several speeches given over the course of the march, including a kickoff address from the president of the Vancouver and District Labour Council, an excellent speech on the exploitation of foreign workers by a member of Migrante, a word on Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis from one of BCGEU’s vice presidents, and a speech on rank-and-file organization and workplace democracy from one of our own branch members.
The march wrapped up with a stop at the Bentall Centre, where an ILWU local 400 member went into the building to deliver a letter from his union to the CEO of the Business Development Bank of Canada (despite the building security attempting to lock us out).
The organizing committee has expressed a commitment to continuing to build this important celebration of International Workers Day into a bigger and bigger event over the next few years, and we look forward to working with our comrades in other unions to make that happen.
A few of our members also went to a panel discussion the evening after the march titled “Who’s Fighting the Bosses?”, put on by Callous Media Collective, a new local group dedicated to raising class consciousness in Vancouver. There was some good discussion at the event, and it sounds like the group is going to put on more events of this nature in the future, which we’re excited to participate in.