Tuesday, April 27, 2010

LJI Guest Column: Standing up for Worker's Rights, By Ted Quant

May 1st is International Labor Day, also called May Day. I will be celebrating May Day at a rally and second line sponsored by the Congress of Day Labors that will also be raising the demand for the passage of a city ordinance making wage theft a crime in New Orleans.

I urge you to join me on May 1st, in the common cause of human rights and worker solidarity, starting at 11:30am at Armstrong Park.

May 1st is a day of international working class solidarity. It was born in the United States on May 1st, 1886, when more than 300,000 workers across the United States walked off their jobs to demand the 8-hour day. It spread from the United States around the world and eventually won the 8-hour day in country after country.

We don't have to look around the world for international working class solidarity. Globalization and the Katrina disaster have placed the international working class in our city. This new reality is creating for us both a threat and opportunity. The threat is that we will blame and victimize immigrants for the lack of jobs and low wages, instead of uniting in a fight for our shared need for jobs, peace and justice in our community and in the world.

May 1st is a day to seize this opportunity and to begin building the solidarity we need for the challenges ahead. The old slogans, “an injury to one is an injury to all,” and “solidarity forever” are as true now as they ever were. Let us unite on this International Labor Day and make the first concrete act of solidarity be a united effort to pass the city ordinance making wage theft a crime in New Orleans. People of every race and ethnicity are impacted by wage theft in New Orleans. Also honest businesses that pay their workers their just wages are undermined by the competition with the criminal businesses that steal from their workers. This is truly a case where, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Ted Quant is the director of the Twomey Center for Peace Through Justice, based at Loyola University in New Orleans. The Twomey Center seeks to shape social justice consciousness through education, and to take action on critical social problems confronting society.

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