[Marxism] No-match letters and teh Smithfiled strike
ffeldman at verizon.net
Thu Nov 23 07:25:30 MST 2006
This article highlights the importance of the Smithfield strike for my
coworkers, who were hit by this specific kind of attack. In this case,
they responded by participating in the May 1 Latino walkout and splidarity
actions, which actually did contain the damage.
No one as far as I know faces depiortation. Some, I know for a fact, are
still here and workihg at other locations. (Fortunately, I don't know any
details whatsoever.) And the atmosphere of offensive by the bosses was
somewhat duissipated and things returned to "normal" with a minimum of
change favoring the company. This in a plant where all the raises I have
received so far have come from New Jersey increases in the minimum wage.
These may soon be equaled by increases okayed by the victorious
congressional Democrats, but they will certainly never dream of getting the
current horde of nonunion temps up to the awful sybaritic level of $8 or $9.
They are moderates, after after all, not crazy extremists - about this as
about war on Iraq, or the much more "reasonable" proposals to bomb Iran.
(Which must stop there, and not go to invasion - but what if the Iranians
react? Wjat of the bombings prove not to e enough to block Iran's nuclear
(whether energy or weaponry) potential. We'll, thjat would mean that Iran
had violated the iron laws of "moderation." And so, all bets would be off.
Thus, the relation of international and more purely "domestic" policy works
Oppose 'no-match' letters!
Working people everywhere should stand with the meatpackers at the
Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, who are fighting to oppose the
use of "no-match" letters to fire dozens of their co-workers. We should join
in the call for unconditional permanent residency for all undocumented
By mobilizing their collective power to stand up to company and government
intimidation, the 1,000 workers who walked out of that giant plant November
16-17 set an example for all working people. They compelled the bosses to
agree not to discipline anyone involved in the walkout and to take back the
fired workers at least temporarily. Now they are in a stronger position to
wage the next round.
The protesters, largely Mexican-born and other Latin American immigrants,
welcomed the participation of U.S.-born workers. They spoke out against the
bosses' abusive treatment and the brutal conditions, especially the line
speed, that make injuries inevitable. In a plant that processes 32,000 hogs
a day, workers' lives and limbs are sacrificed on the altar of the bosses'
The fight at Smithfield against the victimization of immigrant workers has
strengthened the years-long fight for a union at the plant. The firing of
workers because of their legal status is a union issue, and should be backed
by the entire labor movement.
The government sends "no-match" letters to companies "informing" them that
some workers' Social Security numbers don't match federal records. Feigning
innocence and hypocritically voicing concern about "not breaking the law,"
bosses use this as a club to try to divide and intimidate workers.
The U.S. employers and their government have launched such attacks in
numerous workplaces around the country. Related moves include the deployment
of National Guard troops on the border with Mexico, police raids of
workplaces, and local legislation aimed at criminalizing day laborers and
other immigrants. The response to these and other attacks has been an
unprecedented mobilization of working people in the streets. Millions took
to the streets in April and May demanding amnesty for all the undocumented
and declaring, "We are workers, not criminals!"
The historic wave of immigration of the past two decades has strengthened
working people as a whole. It is internationalizing the working class,
helping break down prejudices and divisions.
Another example of this strengthening is the recent victory by 5,300 Houston
janitors who, after a month-long strike, won their first union contract. And
in two cities-Freehold, New Jersey, and Mamaroneck, New York-day laborers
recently pushed back efforts by the authorities to victimize them.
The purpose of no-match letters and other such measures is not to expel most
undocumented workers. It's to maintain a large layer within the working
class that has fewer rights and is more vulnerable to superexploitation.
We should reject the argument that immigrants "steal American jobs." There
is no such thing as an American job-it's a job. The fight for jobs will be
successful only if the labor movement rejects such divide-and-rule arguments
and champions the demand for jobs for all.
It's true bosses use immigrant labor to try to push down the wages of all
workers-that's the nature of competition, which is inherent to capitalism
and its dog-eat-dog character. The only way to prevent that is to organize
all workers into unions.
Labor's demands should be: Stop the use of no-match letters! No firings of
workers at Smithfield! Amnesty now! Unconditional legalization of all
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