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This May Day, Oxfam stands in solidarity with essential workers fighting for their rights

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Workers with Casa Latina, a member of the Washington Immigration Solidarity Network, joined community leaders to push forward a new domestic workers bill of rights in Seattle, Washington. Photo: Casa Latina

Today’s struggles on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis—advocating for safe working conditions and defending the undocumented—echo generations of calls for worker justice and equality.

Today is May Day—and around the world, workers are demanding a say in the decisions that affect their lives.

Also known as International Workers' Day, May Day was born in Chicago when the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions Convention decided that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886." Immigrant workers brought new life to the day when more than 5 million workers, families, and allies marched in 2006 to protest immigration laws that sought to criminalize undocumented workers. From Anchorage, Alaska to Miami, Florida, chants of, "We are workers, not criminals," filled the streets.

Since then, May Day has honored the labor and dignity of immigrant workers—mostly women and people of color—in communities across the US. Many are undocumented and essential—nurses, grocery workers, farmworkers, poultry workers, and delivery drivers—on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic who are demanding fair wages, paid sick leave, and safe working conditions for all.

In honor of May Day, Oxfam is highlighting organizations we work with across the US that are advocating on behalf of workers in their communities and amplifying their voices.

The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium

SDIRC members and community supporters at a fundraiser for the Borderlands Get Free Fund, a bond fund run by SDIRC to help free individuals from immigration detention. Photo: SDIRC

Oxfam supported the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC) with a small grant that served as seed funds to help spearhead its COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund—currently at over $200,000 in fundraising. These funds have gone directly into the hands of undocumented workers who are without a safety net given they were left out of the stimulus relief bill passed by Congress last month. The SDIRC is a project of Alliance San Diego and brings together more than 50 organizations across San Diego County that advocate for policies that advance the civil and human rights of immigrants and refugees.

Washington Immigration Solidarity Network

Alberto benefited from the Casa Latina Worker Relief Fund that Oxfam supported. Originally from a small town close to Mexico City, he has been a member of Casa Latina for more than 11 years, taking English classes and job training to improve his skills, safety on the job, and opportunities for employment. Photo: Casa Latina

Oxfam is supporting Casa Latina, a member of the Washington Immigration Solidarity Network (WAISN), for their COVID-19 Worker Relief Fund to provide support to its members who are unable to work and provide for their families. WAISN is the largest immigrant-led coalition in Washington state, working to protect and advance the power of immigrant and refugee communities through a multiracial, multilingual, and multi-faith coalition made up of over 100 organizational members.

This May Day, WAISN is supporting a day of action led by El Comité and over a dozen other immigrant rights groups to demand the creation of a state relief fund for undocumented persons. The action will include a caravan—employing social distancing practices—to the state capitol to demand justice, reclaim humanity, and show solidarity for essential workers at high risk and excluded workers left out of financial relief funds. Caravan organizers are also calling for the release of all immigrant detainees and the closure of detention centers.

National Day Laborer Organizing Network

Oxfam is helping the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) provide support to workers at heightened risk due to the coronavirus crisis. NDLON—a network of 56 immigrant-led organizations (worker centers) in 21 states—consists of day laborers, domestic workers, car wash workers, and others who labor in precarious jobs that make them more susceptible to exploitation. Since its founding in 2001, NDLON has grown as a nationwide organization committed to improving the lives of migrants and low-wage workers who can only work in the informal economy, building leadership and power among those facing injustice so they can challenge inequality and expand labor, civil, and political rights for all.

Arise Chicago

Oxfam is partnering with Arise Chicago for worker solidarity actions on or around May Day. Known for helping to organize and lead Chicago’s May Day parade, they are planning an online press event this year and supporter actions in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Arise Chicago builds partnerships between faith communities and workers to fight workplace injustice through education, organizing, and advocating for public policy changes.

Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition

Oxfam is promoting Massachusetts Immigrants' Rights Day on May 7th. The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, which Oxfam is a member of, is organizing a series of presentations and interactive dialogues that members will lead on. Oxfam staffer Ali Al Jundi, a refugee from Syria, will participate in the event.

In rural parts of the US, Oxfam has also worked for many years with partner organizations that support the leadership of farmworkers and poultry processing workers. We thank our longtime partners who continue to provide essential support to immigrant worker communities in Maryland (CATA – The Farmworker Support Committee), Minnesota (Greater MN Worker Center), North Carolina (Farm Labor Organizing Committee; Western North Carolina Workers’ Center), Texas (Centro de Derechos Laborales); and transnationally (Centro de Derechos del Migrante).

This May Day, workers in grocery stores across the US are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, risking exposure and illness to help put food on our table. Tell supermarkets today that their workers’ safety must come first.

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