Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Let’s Make a Historic May Day for This Historic Moment

As encampments for Palestine are being organized all over the country, it is essential for us to heed the call of Palestinian labor unions and mobilize on May Day. We must unite workers and students in a movement against the genocide, against repression, and for a free Palestine.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

April 28, 2024
Facebook Twitter Share
Photo by luigiwmorris

We are in the midst of an absolutely historic moment. 

As the genocide in Palestine continues and over 35,000 people have been murdered, students all over the United States are building a movement for Palestine and against U.S. imperialism like we have not seen in decades. All over the country students, faculty, and supporters are  building encampments and occupations for Palestine, to divest their universities from Israel, and to fight against the repression of pro-Palestine speech. 

The Washington Post — not known for any sympathy with the Palestinian cause or with left-wing movements — claims that the wave of student occupations is  “one of the most consequential student uprisings the nation has seen in recent times.” In this case, the Washington Post is right. 

The piece quotes Columbia’s student body president, Teji Vijayakumar, who says: “I think a difference with older generations is that for them college was a coming of age, whereas my class started elementary school in the financial crisis, started high school in the Trump presidency, and started college in the pandemic… We’ve never lived in normal times.”

In this new generation, more people are sympathetic to socialism than to capitalism. Millions mobilized in the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement and are aware of the massive inequalities between them and their bosses. A generation that grew up in the midst of a capitalist system in crisis and an American empire in decline is, well, built different. 

And now, these students are at the forefront of a national struggle — facing down police, questioning U.S. imperialism, and shaking the very foundations of universities all over the country. They are questioning “genocide Joe” and shaking the political regime to its core. 

The power of this political moment is echoing in Gaza. Bisan, the brilliant young Palestinian journalist who has been chronicling the genocide and the conditions on the ground, put out a video saying, “We here in Palestine, for the first time in our lives, hear a voice louder than their voices and the sound of their bombs.”

The students — and some faculty — have experienced massive repression: beatings by the police in cases like at Emory University; suspensions and expulsions; getting evicted from their homes. 

University workers across the country are standing up for and alongside their students and are organizing massive walkouts, sickouts, and pickets. At institutions like New York University, the City University of New York, and Indiana University, faculty have stood in defense of the encampments against the police. Even an Indiana University associate dean, a low-ranking member of the university administration, spoke out against the violence against protesters, admitting “there’s a high likelihood I’ll be fired today” for stating her views.

Students are demanding such actions. At Columbia, students have directly called on faculty to halt the functioning of the university until demands are met. Meanwhile, unions are also beginning to stand up for students. On Friday, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 9A held a rally at Washington Square Park in New York City in defense of union members and students who are facing severe repression for standing up for Gaza. 

This solidarity comes as the labor movement begins to rear its head. Last summer was a “hot labor summer” of strikes and actions, including the historic UAW strike and the Hollywood Strikes. Unions around the country have issued ceasefire resolutions as a result of massive rank-and-file pressure and pressure from new union activists who want our unions to stand against imperialism, oppression, and war. At Labor Notes, a national conference of labor activists which took place in April, thousands of workers gathered, wearing keffiyehs, to discuss building a fighting labor movement and in overflowing conference rooms, discussed how to use our labor power to fight the genocide. In the midst of that conference, news came that the workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted to unionize with the UAW, marking a major win for organized labor and a sign that the union movement has begun to spread to traditionally non-union states, particularly in the South.  

This solidarity seen between workers and students isn’t just a nice anecdote. It is absolutely key to the support and expansion of the encampments, as well as to winning a free Palestine. This unity between workers and students could tip the scales to winning the demands of the encampments like the divestment from Israel and amnesty against repression. It can strengthen the fight to end the genocide and U.S. aid to Israel. This type of solidarity can give us the power to deal a decisive blow to U.S. imperialism. 

This moment is historic because the radical action of students to fight this genocide is inspiring new people to enter the struggle. And the student movement is breathing new life into the labor movement; it is pushing labor to action. 

The movement is not the only thing calling on labor to take action, the Palestinian General Federation of Labor Unions has made a concrete call to us on May Day:

“We ask you to challenge the status quo in your workplaces and communities, refusing to support violence against Palestinians. Raise your voices and take action to disrupt the flow of commerce and trade that sustains Israel’s military occupation and exploitation of Palestinian workers… Throughout history, workers have bravely opposed oppressive regimes. We have refused to handle goods from apartheid South Africa, and factory workers have rejected the production of arms for dictatorships like Chile’s Pinochet. As the Palestinian death toll continues to climb, this May Day and as we mark 76 years since the colonization of Palestine and the uprooting of over 750,000 Palestinians from their lands during the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948, we ask you to stand with us — and let us strive together to construct economies rooted in justice not destruction.

Stand with us as we demand an end to Israel’s genocide and siege in Gaza.

Stand with us as we demand our rights as workers for a decent living, free from settler colonialism and military occupation.”

Palestinian Unions are clear on the power of the working class; a fire power that no one else has. The working class makes all of society run and the working class can shut it down. Workers could stop the manufacturing and shipping of arms to Israel, could grind our universities to a halt against the repression of students and to divest from Israel simply by refusing to work.

May 1 — May Day or International Workers Day — is celebrated as Labor Day all over the world. It commemorates actions of hundreds of thousands of workers all across the US for an 8 hour work day. It too, was marked by repression by the state, who framed and hung eight anarchists due to their labor organizing. 

We must heed the call from the Palestinian labor unions and build a May Day for Palestine and against the genocide in Gaza. This May Day, we must strengthen the encampments by surrounding them with union and labor solidarity.  We must build a massive May Day that unites students and workers in actions that strengthen and support the encampments and fights against the wave of ongoing repression against them. 

The Movement Must Be Organized from the Bottom Up

A May Day for Palestine must be built from the bottom up, both in our unions and in the student movement. There are thousands of new people being activated in the movement, new leaders emerging, new creativity of rank-and-file workers and students expressing themselves that must be unleashed to build a united May Day. 

As this movement questions imperialism, capitalism, Zionism, and the elitist nature of our academic institutions, we must also build new ways to organize that bureaucratic university and union leaderships often discourage. We must organize based on rank-and-file democracy, discussion, and collective decision making. 

This is the way to bring out our co-workers for May Day, some of whom may not have mobilized before for Palestine but want to stand on the right side of this historic moment. In our encampments and occupations, collective discussion and decision making is essential to the running of the encampments — such as discussing and deciding how to organize our forces for some to go to May Day and others hold down the encampments, discussing how to reach out to the community, and deciding how to address the university administration. That means assemblies where we have an open mic for everyone to discuss problems of the encampment, debate the political situation, and vote resolutions together. That is how we can truly build an encampment that is built on real democracy at the bottom; where every person in the encampment is responsible for the encampment and has a role to play. 

For this, we also need regional coordination of the encampments, with each encampment organizing and voting delegates to coordinate with the other encampments in the city and region. This kind of rank and file decision making is precisely what sustained the 1999 Mexican student strike for 9 months, toppling the president of the university. It is the structure that organized the 2015 high school occupations in Brazil. It is the form of organizing that has been a pillar of radical student movements all over the world. 

As socialists, we believe that every cook can govern — that every worker has the ability to organize and run all of society. Every student, faculty, and staff member in the encampment can and should govern that space as well. As these encampments show, universities could be run collectively by the workers and the students. This is a vision of universities we must fight for by showing what real democracy can look like through democratic, deliberative assemblies in the encampments.  

Students and Labor Stand Together 

Throughout history, the unity of students and the labor movement has brought some of the most combative, radical, and profound processes of class struggle. The French May of 1968, which began with radical students on college campuses taking over the campuses and questioning everything, from capitalism to traditional sexual norms, eventually brought in the labor movement to create a powerful force. Together workers and students fought the police, built barricades, and organized a general strike all across the country which almost toppled the President of France. 

There are whispers of this kind of unity, this kind of radicalism in the air. 

Let this May Day amplify this whisper and show the potential of the unity between workers and students. Let this May Day strengthen the encampments and keep the police and university administrator’s hands off of our students. And let this May Day unite in a call to end the genocide and free Palestine.

Facebook Twitter Share

Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.

Labor Movement

SANDWICH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: Activists protesting against the bombing of Gaza blockade the entrance to the Instro Precision factory which is linked to the Israeli owned Elbit systems company on October 26, 2023 in Sandwich, England. Instro Precision is a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, an Israeli military contractor whose UK companies have been frequent target for activists.

Our Unions Can Tip the Balance for the Campus Palestine Revolt

Unions are starting to join students in the fight for Palestine. Rank and filers can organize our unions to join the encampments, strike for Palestine --- and push our leaders to throw their full support behind us.

Jason Koslowski

April 28, 2024
a group of health care workers hold signs including a banner that says "Healthcare workers for the people of Palestine."

Healthcare Workers Need to Defend the Gaza Solidarity Encampments

As Israel’s genocide continues, student encampaments have started popping up throughout the U.S. in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Healthcare workers should mobilize nationally to defend students and help massify the movement.

Mike Pappas

April 27, 2024
Texas State Troopers on horseback work to disperse pro-Palestinian students protesting the Israel-Hamas war on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin on Wednesday April 24.

Faculty at University of Texas Austin Strike in Solidarity with Student Protesters

Pro-Palestine movements on college campuses are facing harsh repression, and faculty across the nation are taking action in solidarity. At UT Austin, faculty are the first to call a strike in solidarity with their repressed students. More faculty across the country must follow suit.

Olivia Wood

April 25, 2024
Encampment at City College, CUNY, in solidarity with Palestine on April 25, 2024.

CUNY Joins Universities Around the Country, Sets Up Gaza Solidarity Encampment

Today, New York’s largest public university set up an encampment for Gaza, calling for divestment, cops off campus, an end to McCarthyist repression, and for a People’s CUNY.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

April 25, 2024


A flagpole in the Gaza Solidarity encampment with Palestine flags, a sign that reads "free gaza, CUNY" and a sign in the center that read "Harlem University, est. 1969, re-est. 2024, Free Palestine, Divest Now"

CUNY Students Occupy Campus in Solidarity with Palestine, Building on the University’s Legacy of Radical Organizing

Students at the City College of New York have a vibrant history of protests and occupations. This week’s Gaza Solidarity Encampment explicitly references and honors that legacy.

Olivia Wood

April 27, 2024

Nancy Fraser, Jacques Rancière, Silvia Federicci and many others say: Stop the Criminalization of Palestine Solidarity in France!

Anasse Kazib, a union activist and former presidential candidate, was recently interrogated by French anti-terrorist police. In this open letter, more than 800 prominent intellectuals and activists call to stand united against the criminalization of Palestine solidarity.

Tents on a lawn in front of university buildings

Unite the Encampments Against Repression and for a Free Palestine

Student encampments in solidarity with Gaza are cropping up across the country and are facing intense repression by police acting on behalf of university officials. Defending the occupations requires uniting outrage with these attacks on the right to protest with broad support for Palestine across the student movement and the labor movement.

Left Voice

April 25, 2024
Five masked pro-Palestine protesters hold up a sign that reads "Liberated Zone"

Call for Submissions: Students, Staff, and Faculty Against the Genocide and Against the Repression of Pro-Palestine Movement

Are you a member of the student movement against the genocide in Gaza or a staff member/faculty supporter? We want to publish your thoughts and experiences.

Left Voice

April 25, 2024