|Workers rally outside of Paleteria La|
Michoacana factory in solidarity with
The recent firing of workers in Modesto is telling, because it shows that bosses regardless of color, are scared of the potential of workers organizing on their job sites. It also shows that when faced with workers talking and organizing with each other on the shop floor, their immediate reaction is the firing and removal of ‘problem’ workers. In this way, rebels and militants are removed from the work site, while others are sent a message of what will happen to them if they speak out and organize among each other. Despite these threats, the recent taking up of support of the fired Michocana workers by other people and different Teamster locals is exciting, because it represents a real potential of solidarity and cross-racial class struggle. How deep this solidarity will be, and if it will express itself in action is up to the workers themselves who will have to take up this project outside of the union apparatus which seeks to channel class struggle out of the streets and the job site and into the halls of power and the court room.
But while both white and brown workers face attacks by bosses on their wages, health-care, and working conditions, working-class Latinos and Mexicano workers face a much deeper onslaught of hyper-exploitation that many white workers simply do not. Bosses, whether Mexican-Americans like Ignacio Gutierrez, or the plethora of white business-owners who reap massive rewards off of the backs of migrant workers, depend on the constant threat of deportation backed by the state to keep workers from organizing and taking action. Fear and the breaking up of families is their main weapon; one that they aim at every worker who lives precariously and ‘illegally’ without papers while in the US.
|Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez|
Thus, many workers throughout the Central Valley and the United States live under threat of reporting working conditions, racist attacks, stolen wages and non-payment of hours, as well as sub-human living conditions which many are forced to live in. Membership to unions, which many white workers take for granted, is often completely unheard of in industries dominated by undocumented migrant workers. Those that speak up or attempt to legally address their situation, much less organize on the job against these attacks, are quickly fired and in some cases, turned into ICE by their employers or landlords. These attacks at work are also coupled with the thousands of deaths people face while crossing the Mexican-American border looking for work, the ever growing amount of immigrant detention facilities across the US to house those captured in raids, and the very real threat of death while on the job (such as the recent passing of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, 17, near Stockton, who died while picking grapes). While this means living in Apartheid like conditions while in the US, it also means massive profits for owners, regardless of color, which employ migrant workers.
At the same time, an ever increasing social war is being waged on American streets aimed at poor and working class communities largely of color; communities and neighborhoods which could give power and support to a very real expressions of class struggle in the US (and which have, as in the May Day walkouts in 2006, the LA Rebellion in 1992, and the Oscar Grant riots in Oakland in 2009 and 2010). Surveillance, increasing incarceration rates, rampant police brutality and shootings, gang injunctions, and drone operations all act to aid in a counter-insurgency campaign aimed at stalling any sort of grassroots potential insurgency against capital. This repression shows the state to be what it is, a repressive set of apparatuses designed at keeping the inequalities and divisions in society firmly in place.
|Teamsters clash with police during 1934|
strike in Minneapolis.
Recently, many state governments have attempted to pass legislation aimed at curtailingthe ability of labor unions to strike, engage in collective bargaining, and fight pay and benefit cuts. At the same time, the union bureaucracies which base much of their activity in supporting the Democratic Party have worked to capitulate to these attacks (being that they don’t threaten the functioning of the union as a business) as well as their pushing of many of the austerity measures put forward by Democratic politicians onto their constituents. If a grassroots rank-and-file movement is to grow, not only against austerity, wage cuts, and threats to benefits, but also against capital itself, such a movement much come from the workers themselves, self-organizing and taking action, not from the unions which instead act as a police force against such expressions of working-class power and organization.
Now, many white workers are increasingly seeing that their “rights” are under real threat. Many of the privileges granted to them by the ruling elites as a way to create a “middle-class” which thought it had more in common with its oppressors than those further on the bottom are been eaten away. More than ever, white workers are in a position of being able to again take up a clear proletarian position: one that sees the subversive goal of struggles over wages and against firings is to ultimately negate our position within class society and launch a revolution against it. Such a struggle can only come from workers (or those who could only work to survive) of all colors and national origins realizing their common interests and common enemies and starting to fight together. Such a project can begin here and now, in Modesto, in the fight to re-instate the fired workers of the Paleteria La Michoacana plant.