On May 1 – a day known for labor organizing around the world – as many as an estimated 400,000 won’t show up to work across the United States. Immigrants’ rights groups, labor unions, and workers organizations are gearing up for what may become the biggest immigrant strike the country has seen in more than 10 years. Unlike other strikes, this one isn’t a protest against their employers. With the ongoing resistance to President Donald Trump, organized labor has taken the reins in order to show the current administration that the groups it’s vilifying and adversely affecting with its policies form the backbone of the US, according to Mic.
“The president is attacking our community,” Tomas Mejía, an member of the Service Employees International Union West’s executive board, told Labor Notes. “Immigrants have helped form this country, we’ve contributed to its beauty, but the president is attacking us as criminal.”
Earlier this year, immigrants staged a nationwide Day Without Immigrants strike. But, unlike the May 1 strike – which already had 350,000 service workers vowing to join the protest by mid-March – the Day Without Immigrants strike came together in a shorter amount of time. And now, workers will take it to the next level.
“After years of broken promises, raids, driving in fear of being pulled over, not being able to bury our loved ones, Trump is just the final straw,” Maria Cabello, an organizer with Movimiento Cosecha – a group that seeks to win permanent protection for the undocumented community – said in a statement. “As we saw during the spontaneous strikes on February 16, our people are ready.”
The last time workers held such a wide-scale immigrant strike was in 2006 for the first Day Without Immigrants protest, which had hundreds of thousands of participants and even more protesters. According to BuzzFeed, it’s an effort that labor organizers haven’t successfully duplicated since. But with at least 300,000 food chain workers and 40,000 unionized service workers expected to join, May 1, 2017 may change this.
But with Trump’s narrow vision for the United States – one that doesn’t favor immigrants, women, people of color, Muslims, or other marginalized communities – workers feel an urgency to participate. Some of them for the first time. Axel Fuentes, an organizer with Rural Community Workers Alliance, said that a thousand workers from a pork plant in Milan, Missouri plan to go on strike and keep their children from going to school. He’s never seen this level of mobilization within this community in the 10 years he’s worked as an organizer.
Organizers from Cosecha, Fight for $15, the Food chain Workers Alliance and Service Employees International Union announced their official plans on Monday at a press conference. And with the already strong enthusiasm brewing across the country, organizers hope to make a powerful statement on May 1.
“It’s very important that we can show that the undocumented community can turn fear into power,” Erika Andiola, a former staffer on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, said. “We hope that our communities can come out and say, ‘Yes, we’re here, yes we are going to show our power, and yes we change this community.'”