PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Protesters begin to congregate at the Corner of Greene Street and Union Street in Lynn for the International Workers May Day March.
By GAYLA CAWLEY
LYNN — More than 100 protesters took to the streets of Lynn on Sunday to support worldwide International Workers May Day.
The peaceful group marched a mile from the intersection of Union and Green streets to Lynn Commons, ending with a short rally.
Jack Damas, 14, of Lynn, said while his family is from Haiti, he was born in the U.S. May Day is his first protest and he came with friends.
“I want everyone to be equal and for everyone to have fair rights,” he said.
David Gass, director of the Highlands Coalition, a group that endorsed the event, said the marchers included immigrants and-low income workers. He said the goal of the march is make people aware of the inequality and discrimination immigrants face.
Gass, 71, of Lynn, said many people in the city spend about half of their income on rent. One of the purposes of the rally was to lobby for a $15 an hour minimum wage, which, he said, would help people keep pace with the cost of living.
Angela Arce, vice-president of the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), said through an interpreter that she immigrated from Paraguay 17 years ago. The 42-year-old Salem resident said she came in search of opportunities and has two children, both U.S. citizens.
“I started a company,” she said through an interpreter. “We employ people. We’re fighting so immigrants can live and work in better conditions for just wages and so that undocumented immigrants can get drivers licenses so that everybody can drive in safety.”
Alexandra Pineros-Shields, ECCO’s executive director, said she’s from Spain, but has been in the U.S. for 47 years. The 52-year-old Salem resident said she came over when she was 4, after her parents decided to move.
Shields said ECCO, a network of congregations on the North Shore, is concerned about the rights of workers, particularly immigrants.
“All of the fights we fought for over the last century are slowly slipping away,” she said. “Our faith traditions tell us that everyone has dignity.”
Mother and daughter Mary Rosales, 50, and Tatiana Iraheta, 13, of Lynn, are facing foreclosure. Rosales is from El Salvador and came to the U.S. to escape the hardships faced during the country’s civil war. She said one of her brothers was killed. The two are working with Lynn United for Change to keep their home.
“It’s a human right to have a roof over your head,” Rosales said.
Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council and executive director of New Lynn Coalition, said support for workers is needed.
“This is a time when they’re trying to tear down the last few good jobs in America,” Crosby said. “That’s why we stopped at the Verizon offices to support their strike. We need union rights for immigrant workers.”
The local march, an annual event for about a decade, was organized by the ECCO, Lynn United for Change, Neighbor to Neighbor, New Lynn Coalition and Worker’s Center of Lynn.
Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley