In 1934 and 1935, hundreds of thousands of workers, left out of the tightly controlled, exclusive unions of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), began organizing in the new mass production industries—auto, rubber, packinghouse. The AFL could not ignore them, so it set up a Committee for Industrial Organization to organize these workers outside of craft lines, by industry, all workers in a plant belonging to one union. This Committee, headed by John Lewis, then broke away and became the CIO—the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
Conventional wisdom holds that tensions between Black and Latino workers are on the rise as the two ethnic groups compete for the same low-wage service sector jobs in many of our nation’s big cities. But recent successful efforts by both groups of workers, to form unions and organize for pay increase and health insurance, show that workers and leaders from both communities are crossing racial lines to help improve the very jobs that they are supposed to be fighting over.
The year 2006 will go down as a watershed year for the immigrant rights movement in the United States. Bringing millions of immigrants and their families and supporters into the streets was a huge accomplishment. But much more needs to be done to consolidate a fragmented movement and bring on new allies.
What is a healthy job? For most people, it is first and foremost, a secure job that pays well. After all, a job is how you pay the bills, stay under a roof, buy groceries, and raise the kids. Without a way to obtain basic material necessities, one can’t possibly remain healthy.
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