The rules of the game changed in the United States last month on 1 May when people experienced a taste of what life was like on ‘a Day without Immigrants’.
The broad, grassroots effort aimed to demonstrate that America was built and is powered by migrant workers – and cannot survive without them. Rallies, strikes and protests erupted in 50 cities, across 25 states. The Day saw immigration-enforcement offices shut down and students shun school; organizers estimate that as many as 400,000 workers walked out.
‘We can’t live like this anymore,’ explains Brenda Valladares from migrant-led network Cosecha, which led the call for industrial action. ‘We are hiding and living in fear to escape deportation, we have no freedom, we can never go home to bury our dead, never be really “seen”.’
Some migrants paid a heavy price for their activism. US media reports over 100 workers were fired. But this story is not over yet. With workers in Michigan already mounting a legal challenge and a strike fund firmly in place, organizers say they are not defeated – they’re just getting started.
And, for once, migrant workers found they were not alone. The Day won support from an unprecedented array of trade unions, from dockers and postal workers to telecommunications unions.
Cosecha voted to escalate strike action at their annual general assembly last February. Organizers report that the commitment to the strike was highest in Trump heartlands – where hostility, repression and risk are greatest.
Cosecha say that the time for lobbying is over. This national, decentralized network is fighting for full and permanent rights and protections for America’s 11 million undocumented people.
‘We’ve had enough broken promises,’ says Valladares. ‘We’re ready to fight.’