Yesterday at Chicago’s Union Park for the May Day march, I found group of protesters from the Asociación de Vendedores Ambulantes (Street Vendors Association) holding signs from the Chicago Community and Workers’ Rights.
I asked one protester what her sign meant, and she said, “I don’t know.” She told me she didn’t speak English, but there was another girl (who I have seen around many Chicago protests) there who spoke Spanish, so I asked her to ask the woman in Spanish what her sign meant. Sadly the woman holding the sign still did not have an answer. After questioning another protester who also did not know why she was there, I asked if they were being paid to be at the protest. It was then that the translator told me “you don’t need to do that,” and a man came over to explain the different signs and shirts of the protesters.
I proceeded to ask all the members of this group if any of them knew what there signs said and why they were there and not one of them could answer the questions, even when language wasn’t a barrier.
Isn’t it interesting that these protesters, who are supposed to be street vendors, found it more valuable to spend their time holding picket signs at a protest that they knew nothing about, rather than roll in their pushcarts to sell popsicles and tamales to a couple thousand people at the march? It doesn’t quite add up to me, but what I do know? Maybe they had the day off...
The Asociación de Vendedores Ambulantes (Street Vendors Association or AVA) was formed in 1992, after city inspectors cracked down on street vendors and presumably threw out their food and poured bleach on it. According to the group’s website, “Today, with new hopes, strength, and expectations, Chicago street vendors have come together once more. AVA’s goal is to unite in solidarity in order to create a world in which street vendors work under reasonable regulations and are allowed to live with dignity.”
In other words, rather than take advantage of a day when these “street vendors” could have probably made exponentially more money than a typical day, they decided, with no incentive of pay, it was better to push their carts aside to make sure that when they do go to work, they are working under “fair conditions” and live in “dignity.”
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