If you support workers’ rights, that means supporting all labor, including the undocumented people who make your clothes and pick your strawberries.
Today, people all over the U.S. are striking in support of “A Day Without Immigrants.” As we now exist under the Trump regime, where talk of a Mexican border wall and a Muslim Ban isn’t the stuff of fringe extremists but extremists with actual power to make it happen, we’re hearing a lot of familiar arguments:
Avocados will be more expensive if we build the wall.
The number of Mexicans immigrating to the US has actually gone down.
Immigrants do the jobs Americans don’t want to do.
Let’s talk about that last one for a minute. You know, the argument endorsing modern slavery for the sake of avocados, “Made in USA” clothes, and Tyson’s chicken. Yes, that one. We gotta stop this shit.
The United States was built on the backs of slaves. Today, American-made products and businesses are, too. The idea that we need immigrants to do the jobs we American citizens don’t want to is built on an acceptance of exploitative employment practices that we’ve had in place since always, but have clearly done little to change. These people do the jobs we don’t want and can’t afford to do, and we pay them shit. Back in the day, we called it slavery and servitude; today, we call it “the labor force.”
While most of us may never step foot on the floor of an L.A. garment factory or a cotton field, we know the job is hard and that there are people working for long hours and criminally low pay.
Most of us assume that many of these workers were not born in the U.S., taking these jobs out of desperation, even if it means they work in a place where they have no voice, no rights and no guarantee of safety.
But do we care? We talk a good game, but the receipts say no.
If you are using the “Mexicans do jobs that we don’t want to” argument, you are advocating racism and classism. You are implying they deserve less, and acknowledging American reliance on unfair labor practices as a key part of our lifestyles.
BUT GORL, that Ross shirt is cute and the discount is bank, so fuck the people who couldn’t even count on minimum wage to make it happen for you, right?
Why are we OK with this?
Americans have a habit of treating non-white immigrants as the house plumbing. We use them and rely on them daily, but we don’t see them or treat them as human. We don’t go to their neighborhoods (unless we’re coming in to gentrify), our kids don’t go to school together and we really don’t know much about their lives. We’ll allow them to serve us at their restaurants, but when do they get served?
If you support workers’ rights, that means supporting all labor, including the undocumented people who make your clothes and pick your strawberries. Use “A Day Without Immigrants” as an opportunity to support fair and equal labor standards in the U.S., because human rights belong to everyone, regardless of their legal status. Let this be a wake-up call that we have gone way too long without giving back to the people who build our homes and offices, feed our families, make our clothes and appliances and keep America running. Read their stories.
Support the strike because you support human rights — and then actually support human rights. Don’t keep defending immigration because Americans are addicted to cheap labor.
Human rights organizations that can use your support:
Garment Worker Center: “The Garment Worker Center (GWC) is a worker rights organization whose mission is to organize low-wage garment workers in Los Angeles in the fight for social and economic justice. GWC addresses the systemic problems of wage theft, unhealthy and unsafe working conditions, and the abusive and inhumane treatment faced by workers on-the-job.”
Human Rights Watch: “Human Rights Watch meets with governments, the United Nations, regional groups like the African Union and the European Union, financial institutions, and corporations to press for changes in policy and practice that promote human rights and justice around the world.”
Oxfam: “Oxfam is a global movement of people working together to end the injustice of poverty. With 70 years of experience in more than 90 countries, Oxfam takes on the big issues that keep people poor: inequality, discrimination, and unequal access to resources including food, water, and land.”
Image of farmworkers courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Creative Commons license.