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Occupy Iowa City members plan a May Day event

BY CHASTITY DILLARD | APRIL 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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The May Day holiday will become a rallying point for the Occupy organization both in Iowa City and nationally as protests are expected to sprout up again Tuesday.

"We are living through some pretty serious times as far as the labor movement goes," said Shelton Stromquist, a University of Iowa history professor. "Labor's back is to the wall, and that has called forth a broader public support."

International Workers' Day, or May Day, is recognized each year on May 1. The day recognizes the 1886 Chicago Haymarket Massacre, in which workers protesting for the eight-hour workday were fired upon by police officers.

Occupy supporters nationwide plan to protest that same day regarding social and economic injustices in the United States and worldwide.

"The holiday, May Day, above all represents a kind of broader solidarity that workers have with each other and not just us but internationally," said Stromquist, who will speak at Tuesday's rally.

"Labor finds itself in a very beleaguered position, mainly because of laws like collective bargaining."

Last fall, Stromquist and another UI professor set up an Occupy Iowa City public forum to inform students of the movement.

However, UI political-science Associate Professor Tim Hagle said the labor and Occupy movement goals can sometimes conflict.

"A lot of times, the Occupy movement is anti-corporations," he said. "But as much as the labor movement doesn't like corporations, the corporations provide jobs, and the labor movement needs corporations to provide jobs."

Occupy supporters said recent events such as the 2006 protests for undocumented workers have made May Day protests more significant in the United States.

Paul Street, a local author and political commentator, said the May 1 celebration is largely an American event that has been forgotten until recently.

"And the Occupy movement is bringing up the same issues," he said. "The disproportionate power of the very rich few, the 1 percent, and new kinds of issues."

Ryan Spurgetis, one of Occupy Iowa City's May Day event planners, said he hopes the day will galvanize community members to demonstrate for local issues.

"There is a lot of movement happening right now," the 29-year-old said. "I would like to see May Day as an opportunity to come together in Iowa City, and share solidarity, with each other and move forward for social change."

Members from Occupy Des Moines plan to rally as well on Tuesday evening, which will be followed by a public labor panel.

"Locally, we are trying to show our strength as a movement and basically trying to show a united front of social justice for international workers and immigrant workers," said Shawn Gude, a former Daily Iowan staff member and Occupy Des Moines member. "I do think that this will be a catalyst for more actions around the country."


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