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September 2, 2019

The Boston Globe: Immigration takes center stage at Boston’s Labor Day rally

A sea of purple shirts, white carnations, and pro-labor signs flooded Copley Square Monday as labor leaders, advocates, and union members gathered for the yearly Labor Day March.

The jubilant crowd in front of Trinity Church, numbering in the hundreds, chanted and cheered along with two emcees, invited speakers, and guest musical performances before marching to Boston Common shortly after 1 p.m.

Fresh from an appearance at the Labor Day breakfast in Boston, where he delivered pro-union remarks, Senator Ed Markey targeted President Trump and reaffirmed his support for immigrants and the labor movement.

“Almost none of us are here because our forebears were doing great in the country from which they came,” Markey said. “We came here because we are a nation of immigrants looking for a better place.

“We know that we will never ‘Make America Great Again’ by making America hate again,” he added.

US Representative Ayanna Pressley, who had also attended the Labor Day breakfast, pledged her support to union workers and reassured them that she “will never forget that I work for you.”

“Power to the people,” she said to close her remarks.

Many at the rally wore white carnations on their lapel in honor of Hector Figueroa, the former president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union who died in July.

This year marks 125 years after the Labor Day holiday was established by President Grover Cleveland and local union leaders planned the rally and march to celebrate immigrants who are “like the first folks that put together the first Labor Day many years ago.”

“We think it’s important to bring people together with the message of unity,” said Roxana Rivera, vice president of the 32BJ Service Employees International Union. “For the last two years, the Trump administration has been putting out a message of fear and division and we’re saying that today is a day we march in unity.”

Elida Guevara, a union member, immigrated here from El Salvador about 20 years ago and has Temporary Protected Status, which allows her to work and remain in the country. She said she worries what will happen if the Trump administration succeeds in limiting the program, but it has not stopped her from speaking out.

With her daughter, Yadira Maldonado, 10, by her side, Guevara said it’s important for people to realize that immigrants come here “to find a better future.”

“We come here to work hard, to try to survive,” she said in Spanish. “I think we’re the economy of Boston. We support everything.”

Guevara said she brought her daughter to the rally to “teach her the significance behind unions and work.”

“She’s the daughter of a strong immigrant,” she said. “She’s not sleeping, she’s in the struggle.”