Thousands of demonstrators gathered all around the Bay Area Saturday in several May Day events.
In San Francisco, labor groups marked May Day with a rally and march to support legislation they believe is needed to help empower workers. They were gathered near the Embarcadero Saturday.
Jesse Johnson had a very personal reason to be there. “We haven’t worked so being out of work is a very serious matter,” he said. "It’s an effect of the pandemic."
Johnson is a bartender at an airport and thinks the situation is finally beginning to look up.
“With the help of the government and everything like that, we have been able to weather the storm. Things appear to be coming to a close we're going to get back,” Johnson added.
Bay Area labor councils, union workers and community groups led the way.
“To march in solidarity to mourn those who have passed in the past year and to put our agenda forward and really show workers that we’re in solidarity,” said Kim Tavaglione of the San Francisco Labor Council.
Some of the issues included support legislation and protecting the right to organize act.
“What the pro act would do is make it much easier for workers to collectively organize and have a voice in the workplace,” said Joseph Bryant with SEIU Local 1021.
Opponents fear it would hurt employers in an already challenging economy, among other concerns.
The large group gathered at the Embarcadero and marched to toward city hall where they had speakers lined up. One of the speakers was longtime activist and author Angela Davis.
“We have to protect to the right to organize and we have to stand up with our sisters and brothers who are behind walls,” she said.
In Oakland, the city's May Day demonstrations began with a small rally and then, a vehicle caravan across the city.
Dozens of bikes and vehicles pulled out of the parking lot at the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland to begin a caravan protest that zig-zagged across downtown.
This year’s event was a more subdued event -than in years past, which often included a work stoppage by the port of Oakland employees, in solidarity with protestors.
But the issues being rallied behind in this year's event are substantial, especially after so many have been struggling through issues like unemployment, housing and health because of the pandemic.
Participants say community and labor organizing now is more important than ever.
"These billionaire corporations have hundreds of millions of dollars and they're able to vote with their money. We're only able to vote with our people power, said Erica Mighetto, the organizer of the Oakland May Day demonstration.
“And so, it's important that we show up in our large numbers, internationally, to support organized labor, because it's our only chance against these billionaire companies."
The group say a living wage, housing security and police violence were among the big issues for Saturday’s event. The group later converged on the west Oakland BART station with a large rally expected to continue the protest.
Later in the night, two people were arrested in separate incidents involving officers. Another group of people broke into a vacant home following the demonstrations.
In San Jose, more than 200 people marched through the streets of the city’s downtown, where they gathered for a May Day Rally at city hall.
Many people who marched Saturday's rally say they are fighting for workers’ rights and affordable housing. South Bay demonstrators say those were the two problems they say have gotten worse during the pandemic.
The demonstrators met at Roosevelt park and then marched to city hall where a speakers voiced concerns about immigrants’ rights, Wage theft, housing and the struggles of essential workers.
The May Day Coalition is just one of more than a dozen groups organizing the May Day rally.
“May Day being the international day of the work or we want to recognize immigrants and women and all those who are struggling especially with housing,” said Rebeca Armendariz with the May Day Coalition.
Armendariz told NBC Bay Area that one problem is that during the pandemic many essential workers have had no choice but to work in conditions that put their health at risk. She said more needs to be done so they don’t have to make such big sacrifices just to provide for their families.
Some organizers of the San Jose event said they just want people to recognize that many of the people exploited are immigrants who are often care givers facing wage theft.