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Coalition plans May Day actions (2007)

"Coalition plans May Day actions"/February 8, 2007/Minnie Bruce Pratt and LeiLani Dowell/Workers World/ link

In an historic development in the U.S. immigrant rights struggle, a coalition of national organizations met in Los Angeles on Feb. 3-4 to plan and coordinate the "Great American Boycott II" for May 1.

Called by the March 25 Coalition, initiator of the 2006 May Day actions that brought millions into the streets, the coalition aims to defend immigrant workers and show their power by bringing "business as usual" to a halt across the country on May Day.

William Torres of the coalition described the boycott as "the ultimate fight for dignity and justice."

...A press conference and demonstration condemning the raids, called by March 25 Coalition organizers on Feb. 2 outside the Los Angeles Federal Building, drew a militant 80 people...

The next day Teresa Gutierrez of the May 1 Coalition New York and the International Action Center emphasized: "This conference gathers the movement to defend immigrant workers-from fighting ICE attacks to changing devastating day-to-day working conditions. By mobilizing in the streets, we defeated the Sensenbrenner bill. Together, we can stop the raids!"

...Chito Quijano, of the progressive Filipino alliance BAYAN-USA and the California Nurses Association, recounted a call for help from a cousin, a documented worker and 20-year U.S. resident, arrested on a trumped-up charge by ICE and threatened with deportation...

A plenary on "Globalization of Immigrant Labor and Transnational Capitalism" featured Teresa Gutierrez and William Robinson, professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and one of the leading U.S. academic critics of capitalism. Robinson outlined the growth of immigration and repression in the United States over the last 30 years, pointing out that contemporary "transnational capitalism" makes the profits it needs to sustain its existence through the value produced by low-wage labor of immigrants. To keep those profits it must maintain economic, legal and cultural control of immigrant workers.

Gutierrez highlighted the use of racism to divide the working class in its quest for profits. She cited recent inflammatory remarks by right-winger Pat Buchanan and former National Security Council member Samuel Huntingdon, that project when the United States will cease to have a "European" majority and characterize immigrants as threatening the country's "national identity."

Gutierrez posed a crucial question: "How, given the repression against immigrants, can we sustain the magnificent movement begun May Day 2006, and bring unity to the immigrant rights struggle?" She pointed out that the biggest fear of the right wing in the United States was that the immigrant question will cause all workers to question what kind of society the United States will be, and will raise the possibility of working-class unity across all nationalities.

The theme of working-class unity across borders wove through the proceedings. Javier Rodri­guez, a March 25 Coalition convener...

Clarence Thomas, an initiator of the Million Worker March, member of International Longshore Workers Union Local 10 and the Alameda County Central Labor Council's Executive Board, paid homage to the country and people of Mexico for their support in the historical struggle against U.S. slavery, and called for the absolute right of Mexican@s to travel across the U.S.-Mexican border without reprisals. He noted that on May 1, 2006, in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, immigrant truckers refused to move shipping containers, shutting down 90 percent of the shipping. Those ports handle 40 percent of all container traffic coming into the United States.

...Another emphasis of the conference was on international unity across borders, with a plenary featuring Pablo Franco Hernandez of the Union de Juristas de Mexico and attorney for Oaxacan political prisoners, and Senator Jose Jacques Medina of the PRD (Partido de la Revolucion Democratica) of Mexico. Both spoke of the movement against repression in the state of Oaxaca and its importance to the immigrant rights struggle within U.S. borders...

Medina called for an immediate end to massive deportations within the United States, and emphasized his opposition to any temporary worker program-"modern slavery to a handful of corporations."

In a plenary on "History and Analysis of the Immigrant and Civil Rights Movement 1968-2006," Che Lopez of the Border Social Forum chronicled the immigrant rights movement in North America from 1848 to the formation of his own organization in 2006... He connected the new surge of organizing to a rise in class struggle against the current U.S. imperialist agenda...

Stating "I'm here to say the face of the immigrant rights movement is international," Vicente Panama Alba of the May 1 Coalition New York, affirmed, "We are committed to mobilizing the international working class in New York for May 1."

A video message from Elvira Arellano brought forward the special oppression and resistance of women immigrant workers. Arellano, founder of La Familia Unida Latina...

...One such leader was Maria Guardado, a former member of the FMLN, the liberation movement of El Salvador...

...Mohammed Hanif, imam with the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, vowed support... Bishop Filipe Teixeira, OFSJC, originally of Angola, said...

Northern California organizer Evelina Molina reminded workshop participants, "The farm worker movement was a class struggle. Let's name this movement for what it is: a class struggle!" Molina helped organize 40,000 in May 2006 with KBBF's "Voice of the Worker" in Santa Rosa-the first community-based non-profit Spanish language radio station, which celebrated 35 years in 2006.

Leon Waters of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund...

Walter Sinche from Pachamama Ecuadorian Organizations stated that the rights of Indigenous people throughout the Americas must be raised in the immigrant rights struggle...

..."U.S. Wars, Iraq and Immigration" workshop by Dianne Mathiowetz of the International Action Center-Atlanta.

Participating groups and organizations included Chispa, ELAC, Students for Immigrant Rights, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, South Asian Network, Korea Truth Commission, Hands Off Public Housing-New Orleans, Derechos Humanos, Committee for Justice for Hector Rivas, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Comite Pro-Amnisti­a y Justicia Social, Jobs with Justice, Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action, Voices Crossing Frontiers/Voces Cruzando Fronteras, Union del Barrio, PUEBLO, UCLA Labor Center, Teamsters, U.S.-Cuba Labor Exchange, SEIU 660, Teamsters, FIST-Fight Imperialism, Stand Together, National Lawyers Guild, Sex Workers Across Borders, Workers World Party, Freedom Socialist Party, World Can't Wait, and Peace & Freedom Party.

The conference closed with agreement on the points of unity and recommendations for action.

A statement by Emma Lozano, Director of the Chicago-based Sin Fronteras/La Familia Latina Unida, was given to each participant...

Fernando Ledezma, a teacher and member of United Teachers Los Angeles, said...

John Parker from the March 25 Coalition commented about the conference...

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Sun, 03/18/2007 - 12:19 · Importance: 2