Socialist Worker

Migrants are at the forefront of unofficial safety strikes in the US

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2705

Workers at fruit company Allan Brothers take a stand

Workers at fruit company Allan Brothers take a stand (Pic: Familias Unidas por la Justicia )


Unofficial strikes have spread across the US as a result of unsafe conditions and unfair dismissals during the coronavirus outbreak.

Over 200 wildcat actions have been reported since 1 March. And in many cases, migrant workers are leading the fight. 

In several sites in the Yakima Valley, Washington, fruit workers have been on strike for more than two weeks.

The walkouts began when workers at the Allan Brothers fruit warehouse found that 12 of their fellow workers had contracted the virus.

The company had provided no safety precautions for its workers. Management was also accused of covering up how many workers had been infected.

The action sparked a wave of protest by nearby fruit packers. Many are undocumented migrants who face the threat of deportation.

Edgar Franks of the United Families Union said many workers are fearful. “If we protest and get fired, we don’t know where to go or who will hear us and if there will be support from co‑workers,” he said.

Fear

“The fear is well-founded because immigration policy is very racist with the Donald Trump government.”

Meanwhile workers at medical equipment firm LSL in Chicago walked out after a fellow worker died from Covid-19 at the start of May.

The workers—mainly Mexican immigrants—gave a letter to management asking for better treatment and conditions, improved pay and time off.

And over 50 Amazon warehouse workers in Shakopee, Minnesota, also walked out after Faiza Osman was sacked from the company at the end of April.

Faiza had decided to stay at home in order to protect her two young children from the virus.

She had been following guidelines set out by Amazon that said that workers should stay at home if they needed to.

Bosses quickly backtracked in response to the walkout and reinstated Faiza.

The wildcat strikes show that people are prepared to fight even in difficult conditions—and  that it is possible to fight and win.


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