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by Vic Tomas
AUSTIN -- Workers, students, and their families assembled on May 1 in Austin, Texas, at Zilker Park to celebrate working class solidarity and rejuvenate themselves for the ongoing struggle for social justice. The event, sponsored by the Industrial Workers of the World and the Monkeywrench Books collective (monkeywrenchbooks.org), featured talks on the history of May Day, songs, and workers' theater.
Festive banners of red and yellow marked the site, where attendees traded conversation and stories of struggle and triumph beneath oak trees festooned with ribbons and streamers. Representatives from local unions and union-run shops set up tables at the park, and independent musicians and artists performed for the enjoyment of all.
Passers-by and curious souls who read about the gathering in a local newspaper soon began to filter into the garden, and within an hour of its commencement, the assembly, which began as a small picnic, filled the Zilker Park Rock Garden. Organizers were quick to welcome the newcomers.
Angela Aguayo, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, said of the welcome extended to friends and strangers alike, "You know, there aren't a lot of moments when you can celebrate [as the working class], and there is always a lot of talk about what divides people--so this is a cool event. I like that it's a family event, an educational experience."
The pivotal moment of the day came when all participants gathered on a hillside to hear local union organizers speak about ongoing struggles for social justice and progress. Short speeches interspersed with popular labor songs culminated when Ryan Hastings, a member of Austin's Industrial Union 660, gave a riveting speech, reminding workers of the victories won by their forebears and the struggles that remain today.
"Those workers one hundred years ago didn't want to live in a world based on greed and competition," said Hastings, stressing that the key to future progress remains struggle and unity. He finished, saying, "We're here today to remember that we don't get what we need without a fight. The fight is going on right now, and we're here today to rejuvenate ourselves for the struggle, because it's not over."
Following Hastings' speech, Monkeywrench Books collective members and children from the audience put on a puppet-play for the entertainment of the crowd. The children, playing the role of organized workers resisting the schemes of a greedy boss, cheerfully took up colorful papier-mache tools of industry and sent the "boss" packing. Lunch was then served by volunteers while lively political debate continued among attendees.
"It's important we remember that our society is divided up into two classes," commented a local carpenter who gave his name as Eric. "Solidarity in the working class is important. It sends a message. Any type of acknowledgement of solidarity is important whether it's twenty or a thousand people."
Industrial union organizer Ryan Hastings spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of workers and youth at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. Photo by Vic Tomas
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