May 1st, May Day, is a day of international workers solidarity. It is a day when workers around the world will take to the streets and show their common struggle for a better life for all. International Workers’ Day started in the US in the 1880s, with the struggle for the eight-hour day. The issue of shorter hours was a rallying cry for workers in the US and around the world.
This current economic crisis shows the need for workers everywhere to join together and defend ourselves from the attacks of the government and corporations. Unemployment in the US is at record levels. Millions of working class and middle class people have lost their homes and many more have been evicted. Social services are being cut and food banks and other places people turn to in a crisis are being overwhelmed.
Obama and other government officials have protected those responsible for this crisis, handing over trillions of dollars of so-called bailout money into the hands of the rich and powerful.
Meanwhile, immigrant workers in the US are being increasingly scapegoated by politicians hoping to direct our anger about the economic crisis toward blaming immigrants and away from those who caused it – the banks, corporations, and politicians. Recently, politicians in Georgia passed a law that gives police the power to demand proof of citizenship from anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant. The law is similar to one passed in Arizona last year.
But many people who come to the US have little choice. They are pushed out of their countries by the terrible poverty in their homelands and by the violence of dictatorships and repression they face. These conditions are the result of the policies of the US government and its goal to insure the profits of the big corporations in these countries.
For example, US agri-businesses like Tyson and Con-Agra can sell chicken, wheat and corn in Mexico for less than it costs Mexican farmers to raise or grow them. This is possible because the corporations are subsidized with our tax dollars and because of the trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Farmers in Mexico lose their land because they can’t compete with the giant, subsidized, corporate farms. They can’t pay taxes on the land and they can’t feed their families. There are no jobs available. So, people come to the US looking for work. Others are drawn from the cities and towns in the hope of being able to escape the grinding poverty that is their only future.
Immigrants, especially those without papers, are usually forced to work poorly paid jobs, with unsafe conditions and long hours. The bosses try to use the workers’ fear of their legal status to get them to accept this situation. They treat workers like property – with little or no regard for their feelings, dignity, or rights as human beings. The bosses act like these new workers are like a water faucet. Turn it on and bring workers in when they need them. Turn it off when they don’t need them and force them out. This has been the history of immigration in the U.S. since its founding days.
The bosses have the same attitude towards all workers in this country. Hire more in good times. Throw us out in bad times. They expect the workers who are still on the job, to work longer hours, in worse conditions and for less pay. They try to play workers off against each other, saying that newly arrived workers are taking jobs and using society’s resources. But the ones who are taking our jobs and sucking up all the resources of the world are the bosses and bankers. It is their system based on profits that has created this mess and put all working people at risk.
The bosses claim the right to say who is legal and who is not. It is their system that is criminal, not workers from other lands. It is their system that needs to be deported, not any worker.
Workers make the system run and together we can bring it to a stop and force our demands. We have the right to live where we want. We have the right to stay and work in the lands of our birth. We also have the right to travel the world. We have the power to change the world.