Protesters gathered Saturday to demonstrate against outsourcing job GE jobs. (Elyse Carmosino)
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LYNN — More than 100 people gathered at Market Basket Saturday to protest the outsourcing of GE jobs and to demand housing and healthcare for all.
The weekend demonstration was part of an effort by 10 local community groups working collectively to improve quality of life for Lynn residents.
“The plant’s been here for many years. My father worked here, my grandfather worked here, so I’m third generation working there now, and they’ve slowly been letting the place bleed out (due to job outsourcing),” said Derek White, one of dozens of GE workers to attend Saturday’s rally. “We want them to reinvest and bring it back to what it was 15 or 20 years ago.”
Jefferson Cruz, another GE worker, echoed White’s sentiments.
“This year we have a campaign to limit the amount of work that’s leaving our plant,” Cruz said. “It hits Lynn in a big way. They’ve gone from about 25,000 workers 20 years ago to 2,500 workers. It’s definitely impacted the entire environment of the city.”
May Day originated in the United States to commemorate the 1886 Chicago Haymarket incident, wherein workers fighting for the right to an eight-hour workday were attacked by police, framed for a bombing, and executed.
The incident sparked protests around the world which eventually led to the establishment of May 1 as an international holiday in celebration of the fight for workers rights’ and economic justice. In recent decades, the holiday has gained new life through its association with the immigrant rights movement.
Locally, May Day is recognized with an annual event that celebrates Lynn’s history as a home for immigrants and as a leader in the fight for dignity, respect, and a living wage. Saturday’s event brought together a diverse group of organizations and people with the intention of reaffirming their commitment to justice.
“While our unions and organizations have their own members and struggles, we recognize that all of them stem from a lack of power for workers and immigrants,” said New Lynn Coalition’s organizing director Jonathon Feinberg. “We are a city of essential workers who keep us safe and fed, we make Lynn’s unique culture, and we have brought life to our communities. We want a city that works for all of us.”
Dr. Alexandra Piñero-Shields, executive director of the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), spoke to the city’s historical connection to the fight for racial justice: “In the historic Derek Chauvin verdict, we are witnessing the power of grassroots protest to change public opinion and make justice possible,” she said. “Through this year’s May Day celebration, we in ECCO are proud to carry on a 135-year-old national tradition of raising our voices and calling on our decision makers to champion workers, immigrants, communities of color, and the planet.”
New Lynn Coalition President and Nurse Practitioner Tish Mukala also highlighted the severe toll COVID-19 has taken on Lynn.
“We are getting sick and dying from the coronavirus at such high rates that Lynn has been in the red almost the entire pandemic,” she said. “The pandemic has again shown the disparities in our city, including with vaccine rollout for our most vulnerable communities.
“We demand that the city finance community organizations to do the outreach and engagement for mobile vaccination sites in our most vulnerable neighborhoods, like the highlands.”
The 2021 Lynn May Day planning committee included The New Lynn Coalition, IUE/CWA Local 201, Lynn United for Change, The Highlands Coalition, Latina Center Maria, Lynn Latino Leadership Coalition, ECCO, Mass Senior Action Council, Diverse People United, and the North Shore Labor Council.
“It’s all about everybody’s rights in the city of Lynn,” White said.
Elyse Carmosino can be reached at email@example.com.