Six Immigrant Bridge Workers – All Members of the Working Class

From top left to right, Carlos Hernández, Miguel Luna and Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval. From bottom left to right, Jose Mynor Lopez and Dorlian Castillo Cabrera. All of them lost their lives while working on the Francis Scott Key Bridge. (Source: CNN)

A little more than one week ago, on May 7, the dead body of the sixth and final worker who was killed in the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore was found amidst the wreckage. All six of the men were immigrants from four nations just south of the United States: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. All six had been working at 1:30am to repair potholes on the bridge when it was struck by a cargo ship and they were crushed and drowned in the monumental collapse.

Much of the liberal press has rightly pointed out that this is an example of immigrants doing the hard and dangerous work of keeping the U.S. functioning, and used their deaths to defend immigrants and immigration from the attacks of the right. It has also been pointed out, also correctly, that much of the work in the United States is still destructive of human health, if not downright deadly. The most recent major report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there were 5,486 “fatal work injuries” in 2022 alone. And 3,405 of those deaths were white workers. But of course, Black and Latino workers were overly represented in the deaths, with 615 Black workers and 961 Latino workers dying on the job, as well as 153 Asian workers. On average, one worker dies on the job every 96 minutes in the United States.

These are the tragic consequences of the capitalist mode of production, which needs deadly work to be done with a minimum of precautions or basic safety standards, and demands that that work to be done as cheaply as possible. To accomplish its goal, the system pits workers against one another: white workers against Black workers, native-born workers against immigrant workers, Christian workers against Muslim workers, male workers against female workers, and on and on. They do so through their laws, through police oppression of one group more than another, through the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies of reactionary politicians, and through their media propaganda.

But workers can see past this. We do the work that makes society run. We fill the potholes, run the trains, build the cars and the bridges, teach the young people, prepare and pack the food, deliver the packages, stock the groceries, build the apartment buildings and so much more. We are the ones who do all the work. And it doesn’t matter what color we are, what language we speak, what nation we were born into, our sexual orientation or what religion we practice. If we don’t own property that produces commodities for profit, then we are a part of that class that is forced to work for an owner in order to survive. We are part of the working class.

And as the deaths of these six immigrants remind us, the working class is international. We exist in every nation on earth, and because we don’t own profit-producing property, we are forced to work for those who exploit our labor for profit. Despite all our differences, we have far more in common with working people born in other countries than we do with a boss who might have been born in the country we happen to live in. And once we realize that and begin to act on that fundamental fact, then we can begin to use our collective power.

As Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto in 1848:

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!”