US unions, immigrants occupy

Unions and Immigrants Join Occupy Movements

by David Bacon, Truthout.

Oakland, California – When Occupy Seattle called its tent camp “Planton Seattle,” camp organizers were laying a local claim to a set of tactics used for decades by social movements in Mexico, Central America and the Philippines.

And when immigrant janitors marched down to the detention center in San Diego and called their effort Occupy ICE (the initials of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency responsible for mass deportations),people from countries with that planton encampment tradition were connecting it to the Occupy movement here.

This shared culture and history offer new possibilities to the Occupy movement for survival and growth at a time when the federal law enforcement establishment, in cooperation with local police departments and municipal governments, has uprooted many tent encampments.

Different Occupy groups from Wall Street to San Francisco have begun to explore their relationship with immigrant social movements in the US, and to look more closely at the actions of the 1 percent beyond our borders that produces much of the pressure for migration.

Reacting to the recent evictions, the Coalition for the Political Rights of Mexicans Abroad recently sent a support letter to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and the other camps under attack.

“We greet your movement,” it declared, “because your struggle against the suppression of human rights and against social and economic injustice has been a fundamental part of our struggle, that of the Mexican people who cross borders, and the millions of Mexican migrants who live in the United States.”

Many of those migrants living in the US know the tradition of the planton and how it’s used at home.

And they know that the 1 percent, whose power is being challenged on Wall Street, also designed the policies that are the very reason why immigrants are living in the US to begin with.

Mike Garcia, president of United Service Workers West/SEIU, the union that organized Occupy ICE, described immigrant janitors as “displaced workers of the new global economic order, an order led by the West and the United States in particular.”

Criminalizing the act of camping out in a public space is intended, at least in part, to keep a planton tradition from acquiring the same legitimacy in the US that it has in other countries.

That right to a planton was not freely conceded by the rulers of Mexico, El Salvador or the Philippines, however – no more than it has been conceded here. The 99 percent of those countries had to fight for it.

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