May Day caravan to support safety, help for working people

    Flyer for the May Day Caravan

    A week after more than a thousand people rallied on the state Capitol lawn to demand — against the advice of health experts — that Wisconsin end the shutdown of businesses and public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, another group will demonstrate in support of the state’s continued restrictions on gatherings — but also for relief from that restriction’s economic impact.

    “We think that it’s a mistake to open up the economy,” says Luke Eckenrod, one of the organizers for the “May Day Mayday” Caravan, a planned parade of cars to and around the state Capitol on Friday.

    He also believes the April 24 “Liberate Wisconsin” demonstration mainly represented the interests of better-off people. But he adds, “what’s going to happen is, if relief is not provided to working people, to small business owners and people in the middle class while this crisis is going on, you’re going to see more people join those ranks and pointing fingers — [drawn into] xenophobia and racism.”

    Caravan organizers will use the event to promote four demands: emergency financial relief for working people; hazard pay and personal protective equipment (PPE); canceling rent obligations for at least two months; and making BadgerCare — Wisconsin’s version of Medicaid health insurance for the poor — available to all who need health coverage.

    “I don’t know how you can argue against that — literally, it’s a declared pandemic and somehow we’re not prioritizing health care,” says Ashley Hudson, another organizer.

    The choice of a caravan instead of a rally was in response to the continuing risk of COVID-19 transmission.

    “It’s not really safe to be physically sitting next to each other in any sort of demonstration right now,” Hudson says. “We felt we have to find a creative way to still make ourselves known and seen and heard.”

    Organizers said they will ensure participants stay in their cars and don’t get too close to each other.

    In naming it “May Day Mayday” organizers combined the international day for honoring workers with the traditional rescue cry for distressed pilots.

    Eckenrod says it is aimed at inspiring a broader militant movement.  “Doing things like a rent strike,” he says. “Not just demanding rent relief, not just demanding protective equipment in one workplace, but having people organizing to be part of a larger movement that puts forth demands on the super-wealthy.”

    Organizers will start  the caravan at noon from the Madison Labor Temple, 1602 South Park St., and proceed to the Capitol, where participants will circle the building. 

     

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.