In Concord, celebrating workers' rights both past and present
Several groups marked May Day, traditionally celebrated as International Workers Day, in Concord Monday, with a focus on labor rights both past and present.
A coalition of pro-immigration groups and labor unions — including the Granite State Organizing Project, the American Friends Service Committee, the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, and Welcoming New Hampshire — rallied at the State House to draw attention to workers' needs. They spoke on issues like salary theft and low wages, and also touched on matters specific to immigrant workers.
Immigrants from across the state attended the rally to call attention to a bill currently in the State House that could make it illegal for state and local police to fail to report an encounter with an undocumented person to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Martha Alvarado, from Colombia, lives in Nashua and worries about workers in her community who could be arrested if that bill passes.
“Why do they want to close their doors? There are enough opportunities for everybody,” she said.
Luz Bay, a state representative from Dover, talked about her experience as a Filipino immigrant. She said she struggled to be taken seriously because of her accent and urged New Hampshire residents to learn more about the legislation.
“This is a destructive anti-sanctuary bill,” Bay said. “We must recognize the important role immigrants play in our society.”
Eva Castillo, director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, said many immigrants are taken advantage of at work because they don’t speak English and don't know how to report poor conditions.
Next month she will offer free courses in Spanish for entry-level workers in construction and other industries to address the disparity of access to safety and health rights information.
“If we are going to protect immigrants, we have to protect all, and all means all, regardless of immigration status,” she said.
Earlier in the day, a new state historic marker was unveiled in a Concord neighborhood, memorializing an American labor leader with roots in New Hampshire.
The marker honors Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a prominent figure in the labor rights movement of the early 20th century, known for fighting for workers rights and free speech. She was also the inspiration for the folk song, “The Rebel Girl.”
“Her life is extensively documented in biographies, she’s featured in novels, she’s featured in songs,” said Arnie Alpert, one of many who wanted to see Gurley Flynn recognized in her hometown. “What's not well known in Concord is that she was born here.”
The marker stands near the Montgomery Street home where Gurley Flynn was born in 1890. She is the twelfth woman to have such an official state historic marker in her honor.