On this International Workers Day, May Day 2020, the International Migrants Alliance USA (IMA-USA) chapter upholds and advances the struggles of migrant workers in the USA and worldwide. In light of the worldwide health crisis of COVID-19, the bankruptcy of capitalist neoliberalism has become increasingly clear:
On this International Workers Day, May Day 2020, the International Migrants Alliance USA (IMA-USA) chapter upholds and advances the struggles of migrant workers in the USA and worldwide. In light of the worldwide health crisis of COVID-19, the bankruptcy of capitalist neoliberalism has become increasingly clear: an economic system that prioritizes profits and market-based solutions to crises will always fail to meet the basic needs of the working class. This contradiction is at the root of the inadequate response to the pandemic in the U.S., topping one million positive cases. As IMA-USA we call on all migrant organizations and allies to continue organizing in our communities, liberating our homelands, and building worker solidarity. Internationalist grassroots and working class struggles are needed now more than ever to confront the onslaught of this rabid and inhumane system.
In the last 40 years, neoliberal policies have deregulated and liberalized the economy and industries, increased privatization of social and health services, promoted austerity measures that cut back on social spending, and increased military budgets for imperialist wars and sanctions. These policies have abandoned a major sector of the U.S. population, leaving migrant workers and refugees in precarious living and working conditions. The upward distribution of wealth has awarded the top 10 percent of the U.S. population with 70 percent of the country’s wealth. Workers, including migrant workers, have faced a neoliberal state that upholds the rights of the market and property over their health, labor, and economic rights. The COVID-19 pandemic is only one more attack on their livelihood.
Around the country, nurses, agricultural and food processing workers, grocery store workers, custodians, mail clerks, delivery drivers, caregivers and countless other workers on the front lines are now being hailed as “essential” while their wages remain depressed, their situations grow increasingly hazardous, and their access to healthcare and personal protective equipment remains limited. The situation is especially dire for undocumented people, whose precarious status makes them vulnerable to exploitation as an American undercaste, consigned to low-earning jobs in both formal and informal economies. Hundreds of thousands of foreign “J-1 Visa” workers exploited under “cultural exchange” programs are now abandoned in debt by their sponsors and employers as the hospitality industry shuttered. Meanwhile, federal bailouts continue to prioritize the highest earners in industrial and finance capital, with large corporations and banks taking a huge portion of stimulus money while individuals are lucky to receive meager checks in the mail. The disconnect between essential value and financial reward has become apparent: survival of this pandemic doesn’t depend on financial speculators and billionaire CEOs, but rather on frontliners, many of whom must still collectively bargain and strike for paid sick leave, protective equipment, health benefits, and fair wages. And this is only considering those who labor in the formal economy.
Most of those deemed “non-essential” have been laid off without sufficient pay or benefits, leaving them without health insurance in a system where healthcare is seen as an employee benefit, not a human right. As people around the country shelter-in-place, the unpaid domestic labor of women and queer people, especially migrants and people of color, continues to grow in scope to meet the immensity of need. The owners of private prisons continue to profit off the largely black and brown people they incarcerate, even as the inhumanity of conditions in detention has led to mass outbreaks of COVID-19. And restrictive immigration policies have exacerbated the vulnerability of migrants and refugees to the virus, causing outbreaks in refugee communities along the Mexico/U.S. border. In response to these horrific conditions, hunger strikes and protests have begun in detention centers across the United States. Hundreds of thousands of contracted seafarers around the world are trapped on board cruise and cargo ships at increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus as governments, including the U.S., deny their ability to dock, disembark, and go home safely. Local communities and port workers mobilizing to support the migrant seafarers points exactly to the kind of cooperation and solidarity needed at this time instead of Trump’s xenophobic immigration bans and his racist scapegoating of migrants.
The violence of imperialism is bringing our world to its breaking point. IMA-USA joins the struggle for a just and humane alternative built on the experiences of the oppressed, with a particular focus on migrants and refugees. It is clear that we need to value every human being beyond their productivity so that an inability to work does not result in an inability to access basic needs. It is clear that, during a pandemic that affects all but which disproportionately impacts those suffering from racial, class, and gender inequality, our global health systems must simultaneously address both oppression and our vulnerability to disease.
With Arundhati Roy, we understand the pandemic to not only be a systemic crisis, but also a portal to a better world. Already, we are seeing signs of this better world emerge, though not without fervent struggle on the part of migrants, refugees, people of color, and the working class. Workers in companies such as Amazon, Instacart, and Whole Foods are striking against extractive labor practices, enacting even in a quarantined world, principles of solidarity and collectivity. Community organizations such as Detention Watch Network and La Resistencia are mobilizing activists and migrants to call for an end to detention, as they support hunger strikers in the NorthWest Detention Center in Tacoma and elsewhere. Grassroots people’s initiatives around the world are organizing in response to the failure of the system to meet the needs of our communities, and all of these struggles cry out for a radical future where the dehumanizing structures of capitalism and empire are finally torn down.
Now is the time that we prioritize a grassroots based, working class analysis and agenda to confront the conditions we are facing. We have a rich history of working class struggle to build from, that is both local, national, and international. Let us continue building our power and our movements. The capitalist system and the profits it generates are based on our labor. An organized and powerful working class, including migrants, refugees, and displaced people in countries around the world, has the best chance to stop and change this unjust system. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the U.S. presidential elections are upon us, let us put our efforts into organizing our communities, strengthening our organizations and alliances, and uplifting the urgent demands of the working class.
Fight the neoliberal design that has created the conditions of the pandemic!
Working class solidarity to fight the pandemic, racism, and xenophobia!
Raise high the banner of migrants and refugees!
We walk together toward a better world!