May Day: Thousands March For Workers Rights, Immigration

(FOX 11 / CNS) Thousands of people took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles Friday for annual May Day marches supporting rights for workers and immigrants, with an emphasis on pushing for a $15 minimum wage and implementation of President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration.

RELATED: 'May Day' March Focuses On Keeping Families Together

The rallies and marches made life difficult for afternoon commuters in downtown Los Angeles, with street closures throughout the area to accommodate crowds.

The theme of the Full Rights March was "On May Day, No Justice Delayed," pushing for an increased minimum wage, implementation of Obama's orders to protect millions of immigrants from deportation and an end to police violence.

"It is our duty as a labor movement to fight for a living wage and enforcement so that working families have a chance to thrive," said Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. "The time is now to raise the wage for hundreds of thousands of working Angelenos."

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, added that "justice has been denied to millions who await their chance at the American Dream."

"Justice has been denied to millions who work hard and earn barely enough to survive," she said. "Justice has been denied to millions whose dignity and respect have been trampled by law enforcement agencies. Enough is enough and our presence on May Day is the exclamation point in our demands."

The Los Angeles City Council is debating a proposal to raise the minimum wage from $9 an hour to $13.25 an hour by 2017, to $15.25 an hour by 2019, and higher levels in subsequent years based on the Consumer Price Index.

Supporters of the wage hike proposal say it will lift hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers out of poverty and that businesses are capable of absorbing the increased costs, while critics of the plan say it would drive businesses out of the city and slow job growth.

Los Angeles County officials are also conducting studies on a possible hike in the minimum wage.

On the immigration front, millions of immigrants are awaiting the outcome of federal litigation over Obama's "deferred action" orders, which have been put on hold by a judge in Texas. Opponents of the orders -- most notably Republicans in Congress -- contend Obama overstepped his authority in issuing them.

Martha Arevalo, executive director of the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, said her organization is working to help immigrants take advantage of the programs, if they are implemented.

"On May 1, we will come together with our partners to give the community reliable, up-to-date information on what the programs do and don't do, and our legal and organizing staff will be there to answer questions from the public," Arevalo said.

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