The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 70/No. 20           May 22, 2006  
Workers boosted by immigrant rights actions
(front page)
In the wake of the massive immigrant rights mobilizations that took place in hundreds of cities on May 1, the U.S. Senate is preparing to resume debate on immigration “reform” legislation, with no agreement in sight. This debate takes place as discussions on this question continue to buzz in factories, fields, and other workplaces across the country. Many immigrants and other workers have felt boosted by the recent marches and other mass actions demanding legal status for undocumented workers.

“The march helped us see our strength,” Anselmo Mota, who works at the Stampede Meat slaughterhouse in the Chicago area, said in an interview. Mota felt that “this puts pressure on the politicians so that they have to take us into account.”

At the Stampede plant, workers reported that so many of them attended the 400,000-strong May Day march in Chicago that the company had to shut down many production lines. While management refused to give workers permission to attend the march, it felt compelled to post a notice saying that no one would be fired for missing work. There was overwhelming support for the march in the plant, including from some Polish-born and African-American workers who did not march, workers reported.

At the plant, where an organizing drive is under way to bring in the United Food and Commercial Workers, bosses organized meetings after May 1 where they told employees that unions have a history of not supporting immigrants. This sparked discussion among workers, who noted that the company had not given them permission while unions had been a prominent part of the Chicago march.

A worker who asked that his name not be used for fear of company reprisals reported that 300 co-workers had signed a petition requesting the day off to attend the march. “They don’t like it when we do things together,” he said. “They don’t want us to organize.”

Press reports indicate that relatively few workers—and fewer than during the previous immigrant rights demonstrations on April 10—were fired for attending the May Day actions. “We didn’t want our workers to have to decide between allegiance to the corporation or this immigrant cause,” Dov Charney, owner of American Apparel Inc. in Los Angeles, told the Wall Street Journal, explaining why the company, like many others in the city’s garment district, decided to shut down that day.

In Congress, Democratic and Republican politicians remain divided on putting together a law that will bring more of the estimated 12 million undocumented workers in the United States under the control of the bosses and the government.

The focus of the initial round of immigrant rights protests was opposition to the House-approved Sensenbrenner bill, which would brand all undocumented immigrants as felons, and support for one of the Senate bills that contain a “guest worker” program. Since then, however, many immigrant workers have begun to express concern about the millions who might be found ineligible to apply and other restrictions contained in these bills.

“What’s going to happen to the many people who have only been here one year?” asked Minerva Ramírez, a meat packer at Wolverine Packing Co. in Detroit. “Some say that if others see we are getting documents, everyone is going to want to come here,” Ramírez told the Militant. She said that in her department, many U.S.-born workers, although not all, have backed co-workers like herself who have joined immigrant rights actions.
Related articles:
How labor misleaders buried May Day in U.S.  
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