Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Immigrant and African American Workers Unite and Win

"Lou Dobbs keeps turning up every night, you know, 'Immigrant workers are taking jobs away from white workers and black workers.' But the labor movement brings them together. Because when they organize, they find their common issues -- arbitrary supervisor power, the idea that the employer is not giving you notice, taking the money in their own pocket. That’s where workers come together."

Before Sit-In, Workers Beat Racial Tensions
by Chip Mitchell, Chicago Public Radio
December 17, 2008

A sit-in by laid-off employees of a Chicago window company this month sparked international attention. Republic Windows and Doors had closed with only a few days’ notice and blamed a bank that had received billions of federal bailout dollars. The employees were members of a union, the United Electrical Workers. They fought for a severance payment and became symbols for hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers facing layoffs. Their efforts required overcoming long-standing racial tensions in their ranks. We sat down with two of those workers to hear how they did it. [...]

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Unions Come to Smithfield
By David Bacon, The American Prospect
December 17, 2008

When immigration agents raided Smithfield Food's huge North Carolina slaughterhouse two years ago, union organizer Eduardo Peña compared the impact to a "nuclear bomb." The day after, people were so scared that most of the plant's 5,000 employees didn't show up for work. The lines where they kill and cut apart 32,000 hogs every day were motionless. "Workers think it's happening because people were getting organized," said Vargas at the time.

Yet on Dec. 11, 2008, when the votes were counted in the same packing plant, 2,041 workers had voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), while just 1,879 had voted against it. That stunning reversal set off celebrations in house trailers and ramshackle homes in Tarheel, Red Springs, St. Pauls, and all the tiny working-class towns spread from Fayetteville down to the South Carolina border.[...]

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