May 1, 1886, was the date of the first May Day in the United States. According to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), more than 300,000 workers and 13,000 businesses went on strike that day. The demand was an 8-hour day for workers.
I remember my first May Day. I was in Mexico City, marching into the Zocalo with hundreds of thousands of students and workers. I recall being amused by the chants making fun of the president’s bald head; inspired by the passion with which the speakers rallied against government corruption; and exhausted from a long and emotional day. All this was mixed with the hope that our lives could be more prosperous and that alternatives to our current system are possible.
These days, I spend my 8-hour day working towards our vision for housing justice. We know that one of the most powerful policy changes we can work towards is ensuring stable and affordable housing for all. When people know that they have stable housing, possibilities open up. They can plan for the long term, which means they can change jobs or finish a degree; their child can continue to attend the same school and graduate with their friends. They can set roots and build community.
Urban Habitat envisions a world where homes are not bought and sold as a commodity or an investment. We are working alongside many of our allies and community members who are fearlessly fighting for not only their own homes and communities but for yours and mine as well.
Our partners in the People’s Land and Housing Alliance (PLHA) are working to organize tenants in danger of losing their homes, and find ways to help them purchase their buildings – not to create wealth, but simply to live in stable and affordable housing, to stay in their community and set roots.
Our allies in East Palo Alto and Berkeley are working to pass a Tenant/Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, which provides tenants the opportunity to purchase their home if it is put up for sale. They have an opportunity to continue to live in their home, take it off the speculative real estate market, and plan for their future.
This year, I think back on the first May Day and the demand for an 8-hour day. What a radical idea that was! I believe that together, we will one day celebrate another radical idea come to life: to see a house as a home, as an investment in people, in community, and in the future.
Come out and show your solidarity for the labor movement and love of community this May Day. There are lots of opportunities to come together on this important day.