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Labor, immigrant activists to unite in Phoenix May Day rallies

May 01, 2013|By Cindy Carcamo

PHOENIX — Two groups that rarely see eye to eye — immigrants rights activists and labor organizers — are expected to join forces here Wednesday, marching a mile and a half from the state Capitol to join a picket at the Hyatt Regency hotel where they will demand that an immigration system overhaul include fair rights for workers.

At a time where comprehensive immigration reform is the closest it has been in years to becoming reality, May Day rallies are being held in Arizona's capital, in Los Angeles and across the country.

In Phoenix, organized labor is scheduled to picket at 4:30 p.m. in front of the Hyatt Regency downtown. Immigrant rights activists will rally in front of the Capitol about an hour before they begin their 6 p.m. march to the hotel.

The turnout for the march is expected to be tiny compared with the May Day marches of 2006, when huge crowds gathered in various cities, including 100,000 protesters in Arizona's capital.

Still, this year's May Day rally in Phoenix is a sign of a better-organized immigrant rights movement than in years past, said Daria Ovide, spokeswoman for Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy, a worker advocacy group.

Since 2006,  the movement has evolved, led by organizers who, instead of launching mass marches, are targeting legislators and forging relationships between organizations that have long struggled to find consensus on immigration reform.

A recent alliance is the new agreement between the AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce to support comprehensive immigration reform that includes legalization for 11 million people who are in the country illegally and a guest worker program to deal with the future inflow of foreign workers.

Phoenix’s May Day march uniting labor and immigrant advocates reflects a matured national movement, Ovide said.

Mireya Mariscal, a banquet server at the Hyatt, marched in 2006 for immigrant rights and is now focused on demanding fairness for workers like herself at the hotel.

“We have been attacked as immigrants and we have been attacked as workers,” Mariscal said. The single mother of four children is now a legal permanent resident.

“I’m fighting for these people out there … the undocumented,” she said. “I was once out there,  undocumented.”

cindy.carcamo@latimes.com

@thecindycarcamo

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