September 13, 2016

Building Worker-to-Worker Solidarity

David Bacon

At our annual tri-national labor gathering, progressive unions and other labor organizations from the United States, Canada, and Mexico come together to discuss and collaborate on international solidarity campaigns. Co-hosted with the UCLA Downtown Labor Center and its Institute for Transnational Social Change, these tri-national gatherings create an important space for the necessary task of building labor solidarity across industries and borders.

In this study, David Bacon—a former union organizer, longtime labor journalist, photographer, and author, most recently of The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration (2013)—picks up where last year’s tri-national labor gathering left off, reporting on current campaigns that have been discussed and in some cases planned at these meetings. Each of the five campaigns that he chooses—contamination of the Rio Sonora and community support by the Mineros union; the teachers of Oaxaca and their efforts to prevent neoliberal education reforms; the Driscoll’s boycott and farmworker solidarity from Washington State to Baja California; El Super workers struggling for better work conditions in the U.S. and Mexico; and building solidarity among Maquiladora border workers—is notable not just for the inspiring determination of those involved but for the critical role of international labor solidarity.

In each of these cases we witness how this type of international support can make a difference in the outcome of a local labor struggle. We are also able to see that, rather than constituting an additional burden for workers and organizers, international solidarity actions often create positive feedback loops that benefit workers and labor organizations on both sides of a border. By analyzing the challenges and successes of these different campaigns, this report ultimately draws out common lessons for current and future collaborations among unions, worker centers, and other labor organizations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

For a related report by David Bacon, on solidarity initiatives in 2015, see Your Liberation Is Linked To Ours.