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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 75/No. 17      May 2, 2011


Click here for Militant Labor Forums

(lead article / editorial)
All out for May Day
actions across U.S.!
Defend our unions and immigrant rights
Militant/Eric Simpson
Laborers International Union contingent at March 26 labor rally in Los Angeles

Build and defend fighting unions! Legalize undocumented workers! We urge workers, working farmers, and young people to mobilize under that dual banner on May Day this year.

It is becoming easier for working people to see that these are both part of one and the same struggle to defend the interests of our class against deepening attacks by the bosses and their government. Both battles are fought under the same watchword—Solidarity in action.

Defenders of immigrant rights joined in the union actions in Wisconsin and elsewhere defending the right of public workers to have unions. A contingent of farmworkers from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in Ohio joined the “We are one” action in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, initiated by the United Mine Workers union to protest the antiunion campaign in Wisconsin and other states. May 1 actions defending immigrant workers in Milwaukee and Los Angeles are being sponsored by the AFL-CIO.

The bosses need to keep us divided, to prevent us from waging an effective fight as they seek to shore up their declining profit rates on our backs. They try to convince U.S.-born workers that foreign-born workers are taking “American” jobs, undercutting wages, and creating a “tax burden” to boot.

Seeking to garner support for their union-busting offensive in Wisconsin, we are told to believe that public workers are “overpaid” and don’t really work, and that “our” taxes are high because of their “Cadillac” benefits.

It is no coincidence that these arguments are similar. Both appeal to a fictitious group of “taxpayers” in order to obfuscate real class divisions and opposing class interests. Both arguments are aimed at sapping solidarity and class combativity.

The capitalist class needs to foster resentments among us to get us to take our eyes and our fire off the real problem: their system of exploitation. Winning the entire labor movement and the vast majority of our class to champion legalization of the undocumented will be decisive in the coming labor battles.

There is an “us” and a “them.” But it’s not immigrants vs. U.S.-born or public vs. private workers.

It’s the boss class, the capitalist class, backed up by their army, their cops, and their courts, on one side. And on the other side stands the working class, working farmers, and other allies—representing the overwhelming majority of society.

Like the law in Wisconsin against collective bargaining for public workers, the attacks on immigrants—the deportations, firings, and spreading anti-immigrant laws like the one just approved in Georgia—are also union-busting measures.

In 2006 millions of undocumented workers and their allies shut down factories and took to the streets to block federal anti-immigrant legislation, to demand legalization, and to say “We are workers, not criminals.” May Day was reborn—a holiday of the working class that began in the United States in 1886 but had not been celebrated for decades. Every year since, marches and rallies have taken place across the United States to demand legalization, inspiring other workers to emulate their example.

This May Day, immigrant rights actions will take place in a new political situation. The mobilizations that began in Wisconsin this February have had an impact on working people. The spreading solidarity has increased our confidence. In the process working-class fighters are getting to know each other, establishing important connections with those we will be fighting alongside in the long, hard battles of the future. May Day will be another such opportunity.

What we are seeing today is the beginnings of a countercurrent developing within the working class to decades of business unionism, of collaboration with the bosses and support for their two-party system—a course responsible for declining unionization and the weakened state of the labor movement today.

All supporters of union rights should promote and participate in the upcoming May Day immigrant rights marches taking place across the country.

We must answer the bosses’ offensive by saying: wherever you were born, whatever language you speak, whatever religion you practice or don’t, you are part of the union fight.

Legalization for undocumented workers now! Organize unions and wield union power to defend the entire class! An injury to one is an injury to all!
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