Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/435/5139
US immigrant workers demand legal rights
Build for 1 May general strike
"WE ARE not criminals, we are workers," read one placard in Seattle as thousands of immigrant workers and their supporters marched to demand that the country's eleven million undocumented immigrant workers be legalised.
These workers - who typically do the lowest paid jobs, often in unsafe and bad working conditions and who are constantly in fear of being deported - are vital to the capitalist economy. They provide a pool of cheap labour for the bosses to super-exploit in order to make massive corporate profits.
In over 140 US cities last week from Altlanta, to New York city to Los Angeles, over two million people in total demonstrated.
In the capital, Washington DC, on Monday 10 April 250,000 marched. The day before over 500,000 demonstrators on the streets of Dallas, Texas, brought the city to a halt. And an estimated 50,000 marched in San Diego, California.
Over the last few weeks millions of super-exploited immigrant workers, mainly from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, have joined in protest marches, including 500,000 in Los Angeles, where school students organised a week long protest strike.
Sunday and Monday's protests came just days after a Republican and Democrat 'compromise' plan, that would have created a temporary worker scheme for 350,000 immigrant workers a year, was blocked in the Senate. That leaves one bill (HR4437) in Congress, a bill passed by the House of Representatives last December.
Much of the anger on the protests was directed at this bill. It authorises a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border; raises the crime of illegal immigration to a 'aggravated felony' - an imprisonable offence; and criminalises giving assistance, including food and water, to illegal immigrants.
Big business wants a regulated foreign worker scheme to exploit this pool for cheap labour and to drive down the wages of all workers.
The labour movement must build on these huge protests to unite immigrant and established workers to prevent divisions within the working class being exploited.
Socialist Alternative (the Socialist Party's US counterpart), on a national leaflet handed out on the demonstrations, said:
"We shouldn't have to settle for anything less than a complete, unconditional amnesty and papers for all undocumented immigrants now in the United States. This means full, equal rights for all immigrants. We have the power to win these demands. Without our labour, the economy cannot function, and corporations cannot make any profits.
By mobilising millions in our communities, workplaces, and schools all over the country, we can win papers for all.
A national immigrant workers general strike has been declared on Monday 1 May. We should go all out to organise student walkouts, work stoppages, and mass demonstrations on that day.
The development of a mass movement for immigrant rights is enormously important.
But to succeed in taking on and defeating the US corporate elite, it is vital that the movement systematically appeals to the broader US working class by explaining that the fight for immigrant rights is in the interests of all workers, and by calling for living wage jobs and healthcare for all workers - immigrant and native-born alike."
A manager at a Detroit meatpacking factory sacked 15 women immigrant workers for attending a protest rally on 27 March. Most had worked at the factory for several years.
For background article see www.socialistalternative.org
In The Socialist 13 April 2006:
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news