Reflections on Labor Day

In many countries around the world, May 1 is celebrated as Labor Day or the International Worker’s Day. In the U.S. and in Canada, the celebration is on the first Monday of September, so people can get a longer holiday if they are planning to go on vacation.

In today’s world, everything is geared by the market and profiteering, and Labor Day is not immune to the influence of the market that distorts the meaning of this celebration, making it into another day that benefits the tourist industry.

Labor Day is no longer the day of the worker. Nobody seems to remember May 4, 1886, a sad date in history when workers were killed in Chicago because they were asking for an eight-hour working day and fair wages. On May 1 the workers in Chicago started their strike.

While the rest of the world commemorates Labor Day on May 1, here in Grand Rapids, Mich., we will celebrate with a demonstration to stress the need for an “Immigration Reform.”

Among us live about 11 million undocumented immigrants who need to be recognized as a valuable working force for our country. This can be done by granting them residence permits and a path to citizenship.

This is a pivotal struggle for justice. We are concerned for the unity of the families as well as for the protection and the rights of immigrant workers. This would be the only way to protect them against stolen wages, and all sort of abuses they go through under the thumbs of their contractors.

Immigration Reform will guarantee that the immigrant workers will use their hard earned salaries to foster their families’ dreams. Immigration Reform will be a redeeming act for millions of workers who suffer in the shadows without recognition and without proper documents.

Our current immigration system is broken. We need a reform that would provide a path to citizenship and protections for the workers. Congress must realize that the greatness of our country is to recognize and celebrate its diversity. This will be like a resurrection!

Workers, this is your day! This is your land! You have rights and responsibilities as our brothers and sisters!

* Rodríguez is a United Methodist clergy from Honduras. He is a missionary for the National Plan for Hispanic Latino Ministry. He currently lives in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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