Facing Common Struggles, Domestic Workers Mobilize Across Borders

May 21, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Eco-Justice, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, Immigration, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Poverty, White Privilege

From In These Times:

On the eve of May Day 2012, many migrant workers from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Sudan and other countries came out from behind closed doors and took to the streets to rally for fair treatment. As with many “guestworkers” in the U.S., one of the critical policy issues tied to the systemic abuse of migrants is the structure of labor sponsorship. As legal guarantors, employers can basically impose legal shackles on workers to make it all but impossible to leave or challenge abuse.

Domestic workers across the United States, many of them women escaping hardship in their home countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, also suffer from poverty, harsh conditions and sexual abuse. And they’ve also used grassroots organizing and media to bring to public light the injustices they suffer day-to-day on the job.

The Caring Across Generations Campaign—an initiative for home health care workers led by National Domestic Workers Alliance—has shown that here, too, giving workers a media platform to tell their own stories is crucial for educating and mobilizing the public.

A new Emancipation Day for Florida’s farmworkers?

May 20, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, Immigration, Intersectionality, Poverty, White Privilege, Workers' Rights

From Institute for Southern Studies:

On May 20, 1865 United States General Edward M. McCook gave the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in the state of Florida. It was a moment that African Americans had fought for. During the Civil War, over 1,000 black Floridians had joined nearly a quarter of a million African Americans across the nation to serve in the Union Army and Navy.

Many more worked as scouts, spies, and laborers in a struggle to end the long nightmare of slavery. Henceforth, black Floridians observed May 20 as a sacred day of remembrance of the Peculiar Institution’s many victims, and in hope that the nation would nevermore place property rights above human rights.

African Americans understood however, that slavery continued to exist in our hemisphere. In the decades after May 20, black churches and conventions organized to protest slavery in Latin America, particularly in Brazil and Cuba. One mass meeting, chaired by the great abolitionist Henry Highland Garnett at Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia, led to the formation of the American Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1877.

Courageous voices spoke against the insidious new slavery. Foremost among these was Florida’s Stetson Kennedy. In 1952, Kennedy risked life and limb to gather testimony about slavery in the South, and he presented this evidence before the United Nations Commission on Forced Labor in Geneva.

Modern day slavery continues to exist in Florida. Barry Estabrook notes in his recently published book Tomatoland, that, “In the last fifteen years, Florida law enforcement officials have freed more than one thousand men and women who have been held and forced to work against their will in the fields of Florida, and that represents only the tip of the iceberg. Most instances of slavery go unreported.”

60 farmworkers stranded by Stemilt after company refused to pay mimimum wage

November 09, 2011 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Terrorism, Immigration, Poverty, Workers' Rights

From Colorlines:

Nearly 60 farmworkers from a rural Washington state community just outside of Seattle said they were stranded with no way to get home last week after refusing to work for less than minimum wage.

The workers were bused to a Stemilt Grower’s Apple Orchard, where they were told they’d only make roughly $25 for about four to five hours of work, local news station KIMA-TV reports. When the workers refused to pick for that amount, they say they were left stranded miles away from their homes. (The current federal minimum wage is $7.25.)

“It’s completely outrageous,” Gorge Valenzuela with United Farm Workers told KIMA-TV. “You have workers with no way home. They had to walk an hour and a half just to get to the street so they could wave at cars to find a way home, which is an hour and half away.”