Texas unionists join Season of Struggle

AUSTIN, Texas – About 50 Texas trade unionists, fed up with pay cuts, give backs, and concessions, came to a Jobs with Justice workshop at the recently concluded state AFL-CIO convention to make plans for the upcoming “Season of Struggle.”

The Season of Struggle consists of three mass mobilizations that will take place this fall: the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, the Nov. 20-21 demonstrations in Miami during the Free Trade of the Americas Agreements (FTAA) meeting, and the Dec. 10 Human Rights Day actions aimed at exposing the failures of the business-dominated National Labor Relations Board.

Mary Beth Maxwell, a national leader of Job with Justice, told the audience that the actions are being called because “the law doesn’t serve us. What we need is a huge outcry from the community.”

The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, which begins in late September, is being called because U.S. laws discriminates against immigrant workers, denying them basic civil and human rights. Because they lack legal protection, they often must work for low wages with no benefits, a situation that harms the interests of all workers.

The Freedom Ride will demand legalization, family reunification, and respect for worker rights without regard to legal status. Legalizing undocumented workers will protect their civil rights, especially their right to join union, and make them eligible to vote, which will swell the pool of potentially progressive voters.

Paul Vasquez, national representative in Texas of the AFL-CIO, compared these freedom rides, which will begin in different cities across the country and end up together in Washington D.C. and New York in early October, to the Freedom Rides of the 1960s when African Americans and their supporters rode through the South challenging Jim Crow laws. “We have the opportunity to be part of another historic event,” Vasquez said.

A Freedom Ride bus will leave Houston on Sept. 26 and begin its journey eastward. Another one originating in Los Angeles will make stops in El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. Support rallies will be held in all these cities. Workers at the workshop signed pledge cards and began making plans to build local rallies.

On Nov. 20-21, finance ministers from all over the Western Hemisphere will meet in Miami to discuss the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. The FTAA would extend the protocols of NAFTA throughout the hemisphere, except, of course, for Cuba. As one participant put it, FTAA is NAFTA on steroids.

Jobs with Justice and the AFL-CIO will be in Miami to tell the ministers and the world, “No to FTAA” because FTAA will spread the job losses and community devastation caused by NAFTA throughout Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and the U.S. Jobs with Justice and the AFL-CIO will be holding mass demonstrations in Miami during the sessions, and support demonstrations will take place in cities throughout the U.S.

Those in attendance at the workshop filled out mock “No to FTAA!” ballots, which along with hundreds of thousands of others will be presented to the ministers in Miami.

The last event of the Season of Struggle will be held on Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 when workers across the country will confront the National Labor Relations Board, which has become so pro-business and anti-worker that some have quipped that it should be renamed the “National Anti-Labor Union Board.”

The message at these actions will be that the government has become the biggest obstacle to workers joining unions and winning collective bargaining rights. The AFL-CIO and Jobs with Justice will organize large, militant, and nonviolent actions to confront the NLRB and its corporate masters.

Layoffs, pay cuts, and the bosses’ never-ending demand for more worker concessions have made the Season of Struggle necessary. “The labor movement is under attack,” said Rudy Anderson, the Texas organizer for Jobs with Justice at the workshop. “For us not to realize that, we have to be sleeping.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org