We vehemently denounce ICE and the Trump Administration’s assaults on immigrants and low-wage workers, most recently in Wednesday’s targeting and detention of 680 immigrant workers in Mississippi.
These inhumane and cruel actions are calculated to strike fear, to drive people into the shadows, and to chill brave acts of worker organizing and solidarity.
The 680 detained poultry plant workers make up almost 20% of Koch Foods’ national workforce. Koch Foods and many other such employers’ business models rely heavily on employing immigrants without legal status so that they can more easily exploit them, and then allow their workers to be punished through immigration raids if the workers dare to fight back against mistreatment. And that is exactly what happened here.
The Morton, Mississippi Koch Foods poultry plant formed a union only recently, in 2005, in deep-red Mississippi. The bravery it takes for immigrant workers to join together in solidarity to fight for justice and better working conditions, in the face of hostile employers and the ever-present threat of deportation, is incalculable. Despite that, these plant workers united to form a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).
And this past August, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), along with eleven Latina plant workers represented by Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (where staff are members of our national union, the National Organization of Legal Services Union, UAW 2320), settled a nearly eight-year-long legal battle against Koch Foods. The suit alleged that “supervisors touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees and charged many of them money for normal everyday activities at work, such as using bathrooms, taking leave or requesting job transfers.” Clarion Ledger, Mississippi poultry supplier to pay $3.75M to settle discrimination lawsuits, 8/1/2018. In the settlement, Koch Foods agreed to pay $3.75 million, to create a hotline for staff to report discrimination, and take other steps to prevent future discrimination.
In Mississippi, as in many other American cities and towns, immigration raids soon followed, striking directly at these workers and sending a clear threat to any other workers who might think to resist exploitation and mistreatment.
Let us be clear: the United States was founded upon genocide and slavery. The blood of indigenous and African peoples soak our soil. This is, and always has been, the reality in our country. It’s time to recognize our history of racism, xenophobia, and carnage didn’t begin with the Trump Administration and will not end with it. We must have the courage to confront our past and our present, or history will continue to repeat itself.
As union members of the Legal Services Staff Association, NOLSW/UAW 2320, we see first-hand the terror that ICE and the Trump Administration are visiting upon immigrant communities, many of them our clients, our colleagues, our communities, and our families. We demand the immediate release of the 680 workers and all those in detention, the total abolishment of ICE, demilitarization of our border, justice for families torn apart by our government, and legalization for all. We call upon our fellow unions and organized labor to join in the fight to smash our racist and classist immigration system, to resist US imperialism, and to organize in solidarity with international workers and all oppressed people for a world with no borders.
August 9, 2019