Posted April 30, 2008
Why We March On May Day
(Op-Ed for L.A. Daily News)
By: Nativo V. Lopez, National President, Mexican American Political Association (MAPA)
The immigrant vote will increase to unstoppable heights in four short years across California’s political landscape, a veritable big-foot electorate, according to a recently released study commissioned by the Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees. Fully one-third of California voters by 2012 will be comprised of immigrant voters – naturalized U.S. citizens and permanent residents eligible for citizenship – and their teenage U.S.-born children. The implications of even greater growth for Los Angeles city and county are abundantly clear.
So why do we march this MAY DAY considering these very promising demographic projections? If history teaches us anything it clearly demonstrates that numbers alone do not translate into political power. The political muscle necessary to make substantive policy changes favorable to immigrant working families devolves from organization of the numbers exercised repeatedly towards very specific ends. And the oxygen pumping up those muscles is civic education plus experience.
Today we continue to wage costly battles over too many issues related to the social well-being of our families. The list is long, and much remains as a legacy of the nasty 1990s in California – denial of the driver’s license, higher education, financial aid, healthcare access, business and professional licenses, employment authorization – on the one hand, and overt forms of state terror on the other hand – wanton work-place and neighborhood raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly known as ICE, the arbitrary impounding of vehicles, which constitutes the outright seizure of a personal asset, facilitated by a growing number of police check-points in multiple jurisdictions, and the increased cooperation between ICE and local police authorities throughout the country. The most recent example is the Arizona legislature’s approval of legislation mandating local law enforcement involvement in enforcing immigration laws. The state’s governor vetoed it.
Notwithstanding a decade of political gains and increased electoral representation for Latinos, in particular, at all levels of government, we have not secured sufficient political strength to curb the practices mentioned above. Although, the prospect of these issues being resolved in favor of immigrants and their children within one more presidential term is highly probable if the numbers coalesce politically at the ballot box and in the street. In others words, it is not the vote juxtaposed to street heat. Both tactics are absolutely relevant to any credible social movement for change, although the change is not an iron-clad guarantee.
Take the city of Los Angeles as an example. The composition of the city council and mayor’s office is an embodiment of diversity and liberalism – the greatest number of Latinos, blacks, Democrats, gays, and liberal Jews probably ever in the history of the city. Yet, the city is not as friendly to immigrants as one might think. Immigrant raids continue to abound, vehicles are regularly impounded, sweat-shops are more the norm than the exception, the poverty index remains high, the city is no longer considered a sanctuary as once touted by Mayor Tom Bradley in the 1980s, more then 94 percent of the private work-force is not represented by a union or enjoys a collective bargaining agreement, the city’s schools are a laboratory of failure for immigrant youth, and the prevalence of gangs is greater today than a generation ago, disproportionately concentrated in immigrant neighborhoods. This is why we continue to march.
May 1st is a shout out not just to the adversaries of the immigrant’s social integration and progress. It’s footprint on California’s political map will only get bigger. But, it is just as much a shout out internally to the immigrants themselves that shares the story of Lucy Gonzalez de Parsons, Albert Parsons, and the others of Chicago’s Haymarket Martyrs in the fight for the eight-hour day during the 1880s, who with the vast majority of other immigrant workers of European national origin stock led the movement to improve the conditions of life and work for all workers, and as a result made America a better place to live. Ironically, however, black, Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese workers remained in even more inferior stations and were forced to create their own segregated organizations to contend with the challenges of the day.
The lesson to working people today is that nothing changes without a fight, a struggle, and a purposeful movement by collections of people with a common cause. And if they don’t pursue their dream in an organized fashion, life goes on as before and they remain as objects of history, not subjects.
May Day 2008 Statement from The Iraqi Labour Movement to The Workers and All Peace Loving People of the World
On this day of international labour solidarity we call on our fellow trade unionists and all those worldwide who have stood against war and occupation to increase support for our struggle for freedom from occupation – both the military and economic.
We call upon the governments, corporations and institutions behind the ongoing occupation of Iraq to respond to our demands for real democracy, true sovereignty and self-determination free of all foreign interference.
Five years of invasion, war and occupation have brought nothing but death, destruction, misery and suffering to our people. In the name of our “liberation,” the invaders have destroyed our nation’s infrastructure, bombed our neighbourhoods, broken into our homes, traumatized our children, assaulted and arrested many of our family members and neighbours, permitted the looting of our national treasures, and turned nearly twenty percent of our people into refugees.
The invaders helped to foment and then exploit sectarian divisions and terror attacks where there had been none. Our union offices have been raided. Union property has been seized and destroyed. Our bank accounts have been frozen. Our leaders have been beaten, arrested, abducted and assassinated. Our rights as workers have been routinely violated.
The Ba’athist legislation of 1987, which banned trade unions in the public sector and public enterprises (80% of all workers), is still in effect, enforced by Paul Bremer’s post-invasion Occupation Authority and then by all subsequent Iraqi administrations. This is an attack on our rights and basic precepts of a democratic society, and is a grim reminder of the shadow of dictatorship still stalking our country.
Despite the horrific conditions in our country, we continue to organise and protest against the occupation, against workplaces abuses, and for better treatment and safer conditions.
Despite the sectarian plots around us, we believe in unity and solidarity and a common aim of public service, equality, and freedom to organise without external intrusions and coercion.
Our legitimacy comes from our members. Our principles of organisation are based on transparent and internationally recognised International Labour Organisation standards.
We call upon our allies and all the world’s peace-loving peoples to help us to end the nightmare of occupation and restore our sovereignty and national independence so that we can chart our own course to the future.
- We demand an immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from our country, and utterly reject the agreement being negotiated with the USA for long-term bases and a military presence. The continued occupation fuels the violence in Iraq rather than alleviating it. Iraq must be returned to full sovereignty.
- We demand the passage of a labour law promised by our Constitution, which adheres to ILO principles and on which Iraqi trade unionists have been fully consulted, to protect the rights of workers to organize, bargain and strike, independent of state control and interference.
- We demand an end to meddling in our sovereign economic affairs by the International Monetary Fund, USA and UK. We demand withdrawal of all economic conditionalities attached to the IMF’s agreements with Iraq, removal of US and UK economic “advisers” from the corridors of Iraqi government, and a recognition by those bodies that no major economic decisions concerning our services and resources can be made while foreign troops occupy the country.
- We demand that the US government and others immediately cease lobbying for the oil law, which would fracture the country and hand control over our oil to multinational companies like Exxon, BP and Shell. We demand that all oil companies be prevented from entering into any long-term agreement concerning oil while Iraq remains occupied. We demand that the Iraqi government tear up the current draft of the oil law, and begin to develop a legitimate oil policy based on full and genuine consultation with the Iraqi people. Only after all occupation forces are gone should a long term plan for the development of our oil resources be adopted.
We seek your support and solidarity to help us end the military and economic occupation of our country. We ask for your solidarity for our right to organise and strike in defence of our interests as workers and of our public services and resources. Our public services are the legacy of generations before us and the inheritance of all future generations and must not be privatised.
We thank you for standing by us. We too stand with you in your own struggles for real democracy which we know you also struggle for, and against privatisation, exploitation and daily disempowerment in your workplaces and lives.
We commend those of you who have organised strikes and demonstrations to end the occupation in solidarity with us and we hope these actions will continue.
We look forward to the day when we have a world based on co-operation and solidarity. We look forward to a world free from war, sectarianism, competition and exploitation.
Hassan Juma’a Awad, President, Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU)
Faleh Abood Umara, Deputy, Central Council, Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU)
Falah Alwan, President, Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI)
Subhi Albadri, President, General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (GFWCUI)
Nathim Rathi, President, Iraqi Port Workers Trade Union
Samir Almuawi, President, Engineering Professionals Trade Union
Ghzi Mushatat, President, Mechanic and Print Shop Trade Union
Waleed Alamiri, President, Electricity Trade Union
Ilham Talabani, President, Banking Services Trade Union
Abdullah Ubaid, President, Railway Trade Union Ammar Ali, President, Transportation Trade Union
Abdalzahra Abdilhassan, President, Service Employees Trade Union
Sundus Sabeeh, President, Barber Shop Workers Trade Union
Kareem Lefta Sindan, President, Lumber and Construction Trade Union, General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW)
Sabah Almusawi, President, Wasit Independent Trade Union
Shakir Hameed, President, Lumber And Construction Trade Union (GFWCUI)
Awad Ahmed, President, Teachers Federation of Salahideen Alaa
Ghazi Mushatat, President, Agricultural And Food Substance Industries Adnan
Rathi Shakir, President, Water Resources Trade Union
Nahrawan Yas, President, Woman Affairs Bureau
Sabah Alyasiri, President (GFWCUI) Babil
Ali Tahi, President (GFWCUI)
Najaf Ali Abbas, President (GFWCUI) Basra
Muhi Abdalhussien, President (GFWCUI), Wasit
Ali Hashim Abdilhussien, President (GFWCUI) Kerbala
Ali Hussien, President (GFWCUI) Anbar
Mustafa Ameen, President, Arab Workers Bureau (GFWCUI)
Thameer Mzeail, Health Services, Union Committee
Khadija Saeed Abdullah, Teachers Federation, Member
Asmahan, Khudair, Woman Affairs, Textile Trade Unions Adil
Aljabiri, Oil Workers Trade Union Executive Bureau Member
Muhi Abdalhussien, Nadia Flaih, Service Employees Trade Unions
Rawneq Mohammed, Member, Media and Print Shop Trade Union
Abdlakareem Abdalsada, Vice President (GFWCUI)
Saeed Nima, Vice President (GFWCUI)
Sabri Abdalkareem, Member, (GFWCUI) Babil
Amjad Aljawhary, Representative of GFWCUI in North America