The Democratic Socialists of America in collaboration with local unions and progressive groups organized a potluck event to commemorate International Workers’ Day on May 1. James Taylor is a member of the coordinating committee for the DSA.
Tell me about your organization.
Our organization is a local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. They’ve been around for a while, but they’ve really started to gain steam in the wake of the most recent election. A lot of people who were interested in, say, Bernie Sanders and a lot of ideas that he supported—collegiate tuition, Medicare for all—have turned to the DSA as a means of realizing that and maintaining that progressive, activist position from a very firm left-wing orientation. … We’re oriented away from political campaigns and more toward getting work done in local communities all across the country.
OK. What do you do locally?
Well, we’re a relatively new organization, so we’re trying to coordinate locally. Reno has a great, great assortment of fantastic organizations—ACTIONN, RISE, Food, Not Bombs, PLAN—these are all fantastic organizations that are doing quite a bit of community outreach. And we really don’t want to step on their toes. So we’ve been working to coordinate all these groups—put them in touch with one another, help get the community involved in all these groups. In addition, we’re really hoping to fight more for labor rights—for the rights of workers, unions.
How do you see the labor situation in Northern Nevada right now?
In Northern Nevada, it’s a little perilous, especially for many of our members that are poorer [or] from more marginalized communities. It’s a frightful situation. UPS recently is apparently trying to push for a 70-hour work week to become standard to compete with the post office, and Amazon warehouses have concerns about how they’re presenting labor. It’s difficult. We want to make sure people are being treated fairly—that they’re being paid well—especially with the concern of Janus [v. AFSCME], the Supreme Court case hanging over us, we’re concerned about our ability to speak, to negotiate, to work. All we want to do for Northern Nevada is be able to work, have a good job and put food on the table—and it feels like that’s being threatened at the moment.
Tell me about the May Day event.
Certainly. For our current May Day event, we’ll be opening the doors to the general public at 5:30. We’ll have speakers starting at six. It’ll be a large potluck event. There will be music and food. … It’s going to be held at the Labor Hall on Hymer Avenue—1819 Hymer Avenue.
Give me a little background on May Day.
The American Federation of Labor—that’s the AFL and the AFL-CIO, back in the 1880s … decided they would launch a general strike—a general strike meaning all across the board, the whole labor movement would go on strike to fight for an eight-hour work day. … They held their general strike and their marches on the first of May, and, unfortunately, the police and the Pinkertons showed up and there was a massacre in Haymarket Square in Chicago. … In commemorating that massacre, May Day was established, and May Day has taken off all over the world. Unfortunately, largely forgotten here in America. … Pete Seeger said it best—“Solidarity Forever.” We built this whole country together. We’ve laid thousands of miles of rail. We’ve built the factories. We’ve built wonders together. May Day is a day to celebrate that, to recognize that.