Immigrant struggle lifts up all workers
Published Apr 27, 2006 8:02 AM
A giant has awakened in the heart of
The “invisible” workers who for decades have
been vilified and exploited in quasi-slavery conditions, who get up at dawn to
pick the vegetables and fruits we all eat, who work in the crowded and many
times unsafe areas of restaurants, shops and food processing plants, who clean
and tidy hotels and homes, who take care of children and toil in so many areas
for a meager wage with no benefits—they have awakened to take their
rightful place in the history of the working class struggle in the United
They are spearheading a revival of working class struggle with a
call for a boycott and strike on May Day. Not even a massive roundup by
Immigration of more than 1,100 undocumented workers in many areas of the country
on April 20, clearly aimed at turning back this movement, has dampened its
At no time in the recent history of this country, since the
courageous African-American movement for civil rights, has a struggle so shaken
the very foundations of the imperialist order. Hundreds of thousands of
undocumented workers and their allies have been in an almost constant
mobilization across the country, sparked by anti-immigrant legislation approved
last December by the House of Representatives.
bill, which declares itself to be for “Protection of Borders,
Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control,” represents the most
vicious racism of the ultra right in this country. It also attempts to stimulate
the vicious xenophobia that was purposely whipped up after 9/11.
though other immigration bills are pending in the Senate, not one calls for full
rights or amnesty for undocumented workers. Basically, what has been going on
there is a debate between the ultra right and the right.
happens at a crucial time in the U.S. The Bush administration is embroiled in
the so-called global “war on terror,” which includes the quagmire of
war and occupation in Iraq. Nevertheless, the U.S. still intervenes in
Afghanistan and threatens Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba, funneling
hundreds of billions of dollars into military aggression.
At the same
time, social services at home are totally underfunded. The budgets for schools,
health care, public housing, repairing levees, inspecting meat, even
veterans’ benefits—virtually all programs that provide the support
and services people most need—have been drastically cut or eliminated.
In the private sector, there are massive layoffs and a corporate
offensive to cut pensions and health care, even in unionized jobs. A close look
at health care alone highlights the critical situation for the masses in the
U.S. A recent study by the Commonwealth Fund, a private health-care policy
foundation, found that in just four years the proportion of people lacking
health care coverage soared—from 28 percent in 2001 to 41 percent in 2005.
According to Karen Davis, president of the Fund, “The jump in
uninsured among those with modest incomes is alarming, particularly at a time
when our economy has been improving. If we don’t act soon to expand
coverage to the uninsured, the health of the U.S. population, the productivity
of our workforce, and our economy are at risk.”
aren’t responsible for any of this. Capitalism is.
At a slower pace
and not as extreme, the cutbacks and layoffs here are creating conditions
similar to those that have driven the immigrants to leave their own countries in
search of work. Their homelands have suffered under financial demands imposed by
the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which work in the interests of
The immigrant workers’ struggle is also an
antiwar struggle. Immigrants are well aware of the economic war that Washington
has launched against their countries, aided at times by the Pentagon—as in
Plan Colombia, which gives U.S. military and economic aid to a regime that
allows death squads to crush unions. While the economic penetration is mostly
carried out through so-called “free trade agreements,” they are
accompanied by the buildup of U.S. military bases throughout Latin America and
the Caribbean. And economic strangulation can also be an act of war, like the
sanctions were in Iraq.
Millions of undocumented Mexi cans have had to
cross the border because the devastating and genocidal NAFTA trade agreement,
which Mexico was pressured to sign by the U.S., bankrupted its
Their fight is not only for recognition and respect for their own
rights, but for each and every working person here who is under attack by greedy
corporations that wage war at home and abroad to meet their insatiable thirst
for profits. What workers won in past struggles is being taken away.
undocumented workers who participate in the May Day Boycott are especially
courageous, and their action will strengthen the entire working class in the
United States. As Roger Toussaint, president of the transit workers’ union
in New York City and himself an immigrant worker from Trinidad & Tobago,
said to a rally before he was jailed for leading the transit strike, “You
have to take risks in order to win.”
Our undocumented brothers and
sisters are taking that risk. The workers’ movement, the anti-war movement
and progressives in general should strive to support their efforts in every way
possible—for it will benefit all. Their struggle is our struggle. They are
part of the working class here, not outside of it, and they are the most
By raising the banner of mass struggle and taking a path
independent of both Republicans and Democrats, they are setting a tone of
resistance, challenge and defiance that is so needed to show the true power of
the workers and end this long period of retreat.
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