For the past 20 years, May 1 has been celebrated as International Workers’ Day. Most years, Center staffers are marching through downtown Los Angeles with thousands of others in solidarity with immigrants, LGBTQ people, unions, and workers in Los Angeles and around the world. Due to COVID-19, May Day 2020 went virtual to celebrate the critical roles of essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Online activities replaced the usual rally and march in the streets of downtown Los Angeles. May Day: Digital Day of Action included a virtual morning press conference on Facebook followed by a socially distanced applause session in the evening to honor workers who are risking their lives to help this country recover.
“Whether it’s in crisis or in prosperous times, workers are there,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights) whose organization hosted the press conference. “To really move forward this country, we must all be recognized as essential regardless of our legal status and respond to our needs—especially during the health and economic emergency.”
The coalition demanded safe working conditions and protective gear for those who remain on the job, including doctors, nurses, home health aides, teachers, grocery stockers, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, and field laborers.
As one of the press conference speakers, Ariel Bustamante of the Center’s Children, Youth, & Family Services division, said: “Here at the Center, we consider ourselves as first responders. We have never walked away from our community during tough times, and we will not do so now. The health and well-being of our clients, staff, and community is our top priority.”
Bustamante added that programs and services for youth remain intact because the Center’s essential workers are caring for some of the most vulnerable in Los Angeles: LGBTQ youth.
“I am forever grateful to my colleagues who, like myself, continue to show up for work and keep the Center going,” she said. “We are an unstoppable force in helping LGBT people thrive as healthy, equal, and complete.”
Equality California’s Beatriz E. Valenzuela reminded everyone that “workers rights are LGBTQ+ rights.”
“What this COIVID-19 epidemic has done, it has shined a light on the deep inequities that so many of our essential workers have endured for so many years,” Valenzuela said. “That’s why we have vowed to fight against those health, economic, structural, and racial disparities. Our LGBTQ+ community and the diverse communities to which we belong have been hit especially hard by this crisis.”
As the pandemic continues, the United States Supreme Court is expected to soon issue a ruling over whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies to millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees across the nation.
Valenzuela said the high court could “make it legal for an employer to fire a person just for who they are and for who they love.”
“We cannot allow that to happen,” she added. “We demand that not happen.”
In an effort to ensure that the Center’s resources and services are available for those who need them the most during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center has established the CARE Fund. For more details, visit lalgbtcenter.org/care.