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On today’s show, in honor of May Day and Cinco de Mayo, we bring you updates from May day activities in Pittsburgh, an interview with representatives from the Coalition for Immokalee Workers and Student-Farmworker Alliance, and a talk by Gloria Munoz Ramirez on indigenous struggles in Mexico.
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Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media. On today’s show, in honor of May Day and Cinco de Mayo, we bring you:
Rustbelt Radio is broadcast live from WRCT studios every other Monday at 6 PM on 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, and the program airs again on WRCT every Tuesday morning at 9AM.
We can also be heard weekly on the following stations:
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We turn now to local stories.
Around the world, May Day is a day for celebration of workers’ rights. Unlike the American Labor Day, however, May Day has a history more associated with actions to demand rights than with holiday picnics and parades. In recent years in the United States, the immigrants’ rights’ movement has held marches and even general strikes on May Day to bring attention to the importance of immigrant labor in the U.S. economy. These events also demand and end to ongoing human rights violations faced by immigrants, such as separation of families through deportations, seizure and detention of undocumented people in extra-judicial ICE prisons, exploitation by employers, and difficulties accessing education and health care.
This year, Pittsburgh joined in this national trend with its largest ever immigrants-rights themed May Day March. About three hundred people marched through the South Side, with colorful banners, music, and bilingual chants. Immigrants from many countries were represented, with an especially strong presence from central and latin America. The event was organized by Fight Back Pittsburgh and the United Steelworkers Union, with sponsorship from other unions including Service Employees International Union and United Electrical Workers Union. The enthusiastic public participation of organized labor in demanding immigrants’ rights is signficant because labor has in the past opposed immigration reform, out of fear that immigrants may compete with native workers for jobs. However, union views are changing: according to the Fight Back Pittsburgh event website:
(quote) Our current immigration system creates a clear list of winners and losers. While huge corporations, private prisons and the fast food industry continue to benefit from the current system, we, the working and tax-paying people of the United States, continue to lose every day. Our current immigration system is broken. It’s expensive, it doesn’t work (undocumented workers have increased exponentially since more money has been spent on border patrol) and it creates a second class of workers, who corporations and companies use to lower wages for everyone.
We will march on May Day to demand that our government come up with a plan that includes comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the time to keep families united; now is the time to hold employers accountable for the exploitation of millions of people across the country; now is the time to give all working people a fighting chance at a better life. (endquote)
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.
While anti-immigrant rhetoric portrays immigrants as a drain on American society, consuming resources and taking jobs, many studies show that the facts on the ground are far different. Undocumented immigrants pay millions into social security each year with no expectation of ever receiving benefits; without this contribution, the system would have collapsed in 2009. Our economy is also dependent on immigrant labor, especially in certain sectors shunned by native born workers. Agriculture and food processing are particularly dependent on immigrant workers, and the nation’s food supply would literally collapse without their participation. However, there is a long history of exploition of immigrant farmworkers, with harsh working conditions, long hours, and low wages. There is also a vital history of labor and community organizing, such as Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers. In the last decade, a new group called the Coalition for Immokalee Workers has made national headlines through their bottom-up organizing efforts to improve conditions for tomato pickers by campaigning for large market share buyers such as Taco Bell, Burger King, and McDonald’s to pay a fair price per pound. The Student Farmworker Alliance is a student solidarity movement that has worked in partnership with the CIW. Today in celebration of immigrant’s contribution to our food supply and the vital contributions of immigrant organizing to this country’s social movements, we bring you an interview with representatives of both organizations. This segment is produced by Radio Autonomia with translations added by Jessica McPherson.
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WSDR Pittsburgh, WIUP Indiana, WNJR Washington, WLRI LanChester, and FRSC Santa Cruz.
Our host this week is Jessica McPherson. This week's show was directed and produced by [Jessica McPherson].
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