Workers demand better protections during May Day protests in San Francisco

May 1st is traditionally a day to recognize labor. In San Francisco, this year's May Day observations are coming amidst the global pandemic and an estimated 20 percent unemployment rate.

May Day organizers say in these difficult times workers need protections now, maybe more than ever. This year labor organizers say protecting workers is literally a matter of life or death.

United Public Workers for Action and black workers unite protesting in front of City Hall, demanding personal protective equipment be made available for all those essential workers still on the job. 

"In my view, it's criminal that the government is not saying and saying to them to make sure that their workers are required to be properly protected," said Steve Zeltzer from United Public Workers for Action. "That seems like a basic human right."

May Day protesters are also advocating for housing rights. They're saying with an estimated 15 to 20 percent unemployment rate local, state and federal officials need to cancel rents, mortgages, and utility payments.

Saying the state needs to create fundamental change to the economy for the future. "The idea is that if Newsom and we all want to put the economy in recovery we need to do that through a Green New Deal," said Maureen Katz. "So, that is what we're out here supporting, and to cancel rents and mortgages." 

May Day protesters also showing up at City Hall urging people to comply with local and state social distancing public health orders. "We have a human right to protect workers, we have a human right to protect the people of this county," said one protester.

Those protesters met with opposition, saying the public health directives are devastating the economy. "It's in the same league as your seasonal flu," said Clint Griess from " And so there's no way it justifies this draconian effort is no shut down our economy."

San Francisco's scaled back May Day observance was in line with generally smaller gatherings around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic.