CORE supporting Chicago May Day march 2011... May Day 2006 set the standard for Chicago's working class events

This coming Saturday, April 9, 2011, will not be the only major labor action that the members of the Chicago Teachers Union and CORE take part in in the next six weeks. The national events taking place across the USA between April 4 and April 9, 2011 (largely ignored by the corporate media as of this writing on April 7) will escalate through April 9, and then resume for May Day, May 1, 2011.

Plans for the May Day 2011 marches are just beginning in Chicago as Substance goes to press on April 7, 2011. One of the preliminary events for MaY Day 2011 will be the April 9 events in downtown Chicago. Among the items that were approved for action at the April 4, 2011 meeting of CORE, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators of the Chicago Teachers Union, was support for the upcoming labor actions on April 9 and May 4. Chicago Teachers Union members will assemble at the Regency Hyatt Chicago at Michigan and Wacker to march on April 9. Details of the May 1, 2011 march will be forthcoming.

The decision by CORE to support the May 1, 2011, march is in stark contrast to the former leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union under Marilyn Stewart (president from 2004 to July 1, 2010). CORE members and others will propose that the CTU support this year's May Day march at the union's April 13 House of Delegates meeting. The largest May Day march in the history of Chicago was held on May 1, 2006 and the Chicago Teachers Union ignored it. The May 1, 2006 march, which flowed from the massive immigrant rights marches that had been building, beginning in Chicago, from March 2006 saw more than a quarter of a million people march from Union Park at Ashland and Lake streets in Chicago two miles east to Grant Park at Jackson Blvd where an estimated 400,000 - 500,000 people assembled for the greatest labor march in Chicago history.

For those who cannot access the hotlink above, the URL for the "old" Substance site story about the May 1, 2006 march is:

While most Chicago labor unions — and the Chicago Federation of Labor — were part of the planning and execution of the massive marches in March and May 2006, conspicuous by its absence was the huge Chicago Teachers Union. Although a few teachers brought their own signs, the presence of the CTU was not large, and the absence of all the union’s leaders at the time was striking. Dozens of speakers at the May 1 event from labor unions, political leaders, and immigrant rights groups were present on the speakers' platform.

The May Day 2006 march and rally in Chicago would not have been built had it not been for the months of planning that had given rise to the March 10, 2006 immigrant rights march (above, as seen from the bridge of Whitney Young High School in Chicago) that was organized by immigrant rights groups, churches, and labor unions under the slogan "Immigrant Rights are Human Rights" and "Immigrant Rights are Workers' Rights." Substance photo by Dan Schmidt.A major lesson was also learned by many people during the organizing and follow up from March through May 2006. Corporate America, which a few years later was to help the billionaires create the "Tea Party" hoaxes, tried to black out the huge Chicago demonstrations. The huge immigrant rights and labor rights marches of 2006 were one of the earlier warnings to working people and unions that the agenda of the corporate media, in Chicago and nationally, would ignore the massive outpourings of the people. The first immigrant rights march in Chicago on March 10, 2006 was one of the largest marches and protests in Chicago history, bringing an estimated 250,000 people to the federal plaza and blocking off major streets in the city’s financial district. The URL for the "old" Substance website story about the March 10, 2006 march and rally is below for those who can't access the hotlink above:

That march was known to all of the major media, but The New York Times (which had reporters present), among others, blackballed the Chicago event completely. The other corporate media downplayed the size and significance of what had happened in Chicago on March 10, 2006, and continued to downplay what was building for May 1, 2006.

As has happened so many times in the history of the American working class, when the working class is without its own media and its own way of telling its own stories, the history is blacked out, while other "narratives" are substituted for reality.

The photo above, showing one block of the crowd that stretched for more than 12 blocks to the west and filled the streets surrounding Chicago's federal buildings, was taken from the window of the conference room of the Chicago Board of Education's headquarters office of budget during the March 10, 2006 march. Officials of the CPS office of management and budget, many of whom were from families of immigrants, assisted Substance in getting the above photograph during the march so that the size of the march would be seen despite later attempts to downplay it. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In 2006, some supposedly "progressive" publications, which still rely on The New York Times and other corporate media for the facts of today, ignored the Chicago event of March 2006, even though it was the largest that kicked off the planning for the massive May Day march six weeks later. Substance's coverage of the March 10, 2006 event included a major estimate of the size of the crowd using photos from above (see photo here) and at ground level, plus estimates from participants and organizers.

One of the many pieces of the March 10 and May 1, 2006 marches in Chicago is that they were combined with what amounted to a massive student strike, when students poured out of dozens of Chicago schools and then became part of the sea of humanity that surged into the Loop of the third largest city in the USA during the worst days of the Bush years and under the nose of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Substance reported on the first march of 2006 in a page one story headlined "La Marcha empties schools, businesses..." The lead to the story reads:

"It began in Chicago on March 10, 2006. The invisible suddenly became visible. By the time it had worked its way across the country in early April, more than two million Americans had taken to the streets from New York to Los Angeles. But it began in Chicago on March 10, 2006.

"They left school by the tens of thousands, knowing they had to do something important but also knowing it would be fun. In response to the growing call from the communities that have always created and re-created the United States, children and teenagers whose families came from more than 30 countries left their homes on the morning of March 10, reported to public schools with names like Benito Juarez and Roberto Clemente, and then, within an hour after attendance was taken around 10:00 that morning, disappeared into Chicago’s streets.

"In all, at least 30 Chicago elementary and high schools reported their students had left in large numbers that morning. Some went out from as far away as Senn High School (eight miles from the Loop) on the north and Gage Park High School (nine miles southwest of the rally site) on the south, but nobody got an accurate count.

"By noon, the students reappeared in a sea of people numbering at least a quarter million that flowed from Ashland Ave. past Whitney Young High School and Skinner Elementary School into Chicago’s Loop. There the march and rally shut down the central business district of one of the largest and most powerful cities in the history of the world."

One of the people whose inspiration gave rise to the marches following the attacks on immigrant rights in 2005 and 2006 was SEIU Local 73 executive board member Jose Arreola (above, second from right), who spoke at the March 10, 2006 rally in federal plaza (above). With him in the above photograph are Substance's George Schmidt, SEIU rep Bill Silver (second from left), and SEIU's Joe Iosbaker (right). Substance photo by Dan Schmidt.March 10, 2006 had set the stage for an even bigger event for May 1, 2006, although at the time nobody realized it.

The planning for the May 1, 2006 event was careful and determined. May 1, 2006 was on a Monday, and in the early planning some argued that the event should take place on the previous Saturday because more people would be able to attend. What finally prevailed was the fact that hundreds of thousands of working people were going to take off from work on May 1, 2006, calling the May 1 event the second “general strike” of that era. Earlier, several of the groups that had promoted the March event talked about it, especially in the Spanish and other non-English promotions of the event, as a “general strike.

At the end of the May 1, 2006 march, speaker after speaker repeated the theme that "immigrant rights are workers' rights and human rights." Above, Amisha Patel, then with SEIU Local 73 (and currently with the Chicago grass roots collaborative) speaks to the crowd of between 400,000 and 500,000 on May 1, 2006. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The impressive self-discipline of the March 2006 event forced the administration of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to grant the marchers the permit to end their march in Grant Park, where hundreds of thousands of people could be assembled. During negotiations preceding the event, Daley’s people first offered to let the march end at the Haymarket monument at Randolph and Des Plaines, above the Kennedy Expressway. When some leaders noted that putting hundreds of thousands of people above one of the busiest highways in the USA (the Kennedy Expressway), Daley’s people then suggested that the march continue to the federal plaza, where it had been held in March.

As tens of thousands of people ended their two-mile march from Union Park to Grant Park in Chicago on May 1, 2006, the spirit of the march was barely beginning. The May Day 2006 march and rally in Chicago was the largest May Day event in the history of the city where May Day began. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Anticipating an even larger crowd for the May Day 2006 march, the organizers reminded Daley that the March event had closed a half dozen streets from Wells to State St and from Monroe to Van Buren in the city’s financial district during the work day. Faced with a repeat of that on a larger scale, Daley finally agreed to let the march pierce through the Loop along Jackson Blvd and end on the lakefront in Grant Park. Despite massive security (including a silly display of State Police ordered by then Governor Rod Blagojevich), the event went off without any major arrests, as union and other groups provided marshalls for the enormous event. City of Chicago planning for the final rally in Grant Park was professional.

The most extensive coverage of the event appeared on line at the old Substance website ( and in the pages of the print edition of Substance. In 2011, more labor reporters now know that working people cannot rely on corporate America to provide accurate and timely news of the massive events unfolding as American workers reorganize against the attacks on working class organizations — especially the unions — and the living and working conditions of working people.

A small part of the crowd that was estimated to be around 400,000 in Grant Park Chicago on May 1, 2006. Organized by immigrant rights groups, churches, and Chicago labor unions, the May 1, 2006 march and rally surpassed even the wildest hopes of the event's organizers by mobilizing the creativity and energy of the diverse working class of Chicago and the Midwest. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.More details about the May 1 actions will be published at as planning moves forward.


April 8, 2011 at 10:06 PM

By: Jim Vail

immigrant march

The huge immigrant march in 2006 on May day was during the Bush admin. There also used to be huge anti-war protests. But now that Obama and the democrats are in power - those protests have dwindled considerably, many of the immigrant organizations and other "progressive" groups have made their peace with the dem in charge.

So now we have the tea party protests organized by the republican party, not in power (see how it works - those in charge work both sides of the aisle collaboratively, while we suckers are stuck with merit pay).

But that is what makes the Wisconsin protests so powerful - that wasn't supposed to happen at all. It totally threw off not just the politicians, but the union leaders as well who are well aligned with the democratic party with Obama as their leader who raids and deports even more immigrants, attacks teachers and unions even more and wages even more wars than Bush.

April 9, 2011 at 10:36 AM

By: J. Whitfield

See you on May Day !

1887: Parsons, Spies, Fischer and Engel, the Haymarket Martyrs

On this date in 1887, the Chicago political machine hanged four at Cook County Jail to defend civilization from the eight-hour day.

The Haymarket martyrs, as they would be remembered ere the hysterical atmosphere of their sentencing had passed, were four from a group of eight anarchist agitators rounded up when a never-identified person threw a bomb at Chicago police breaking up a peaceful rally. The bomb killed one cop; the indiscriminate police shooting that followed killed several more in friendly fire, plus an uncertain number of civilians.

The incident occurred just days after nationwide strikes began on May 1, 1886, in support of the eight-hour day. Nowhere were the tensions greater than Chicago, an epicenter of militant organizing. When tens of thousands poured into the streets on May 1, the Chicago Mail darkly said of high-profile radicals Albert Parsons and August Spies.

April 10, 2011 at 3:15 PM

By: Danielle C

May Day

So when and where is the march?

April 11, 2011 at 1:22 AM

By: kugler

May Day Activities

May 1, 2011 - 1 pm, World wide gathering to celebrate 125th anniversary of the Haymarket and the restoration of the Monument in Forest Park, IL featuring AFL-CIO secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler

May Day, 2011, Chicago: A Time To Remember, A Time To Dream A New World

April 19, 2011 at 1:23 AM

By: Mario Cardenas

March Details

The march through the city will begin in Union Park at 2pm. Anyone is invited to the open planing meetings: Tuesdays at 7pm at 1921 S. Blue Island in Pilsen. Here are some links:


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