This article was published by the Lexington Herald here:
As many of you are aware, Printer giant Lexmark recently fired about 120 workers at their Juarez location. They were essentially fired for seeking a $0.35 raise and improved work conditions.
American’s (especially in Kentucky where Lexmark is headquartered) who are criticizing Mexican laborers for demanding more, recall your own history that is currently influencing your on-the-job luxuries. Do you realize that we enjoy our safe work conditions because of the previous strikes by our coalminers (especially in Kentucky) , postal workers, textile workers, car factory workers, railroad workers, sanitation workers, teachers…hell even AT&T workers went on strike! These White Dudes exercised their constitutionally protected right to assemble and protest.
When one halts their labor, it is a result of on-going neglect and tension between the worker and the employer. These workers aren’t lazy. They aren’t trying to get rich. They are aware of the power they have and how they are exploited.
While Lexmark has recently reported losses, CEO Paul Rooke’s salary and compensation has steadily increased over the past four years. While some may argue that increasing the hourly wage of the some of the most expendable labor in a company is not financially feasible or sound, you must get a clearer picture on our corporate elites. The next time you feel sorry for Lexmark, remember they just acquired Kofax for 1 billion – cash. Yall didn’t hear me. ONE BILLION DOLLARS CASH MONEY. They got the money. They just don’t want to give it to their most exploited laborers.
We’ve been sold this myth and lie that increasing hourly wages for some of our most menial jobs would do more harm than good. The only harm that these increase could pose is a threat to capitalism as the point and purpose is to maximize profits at all cost. Ford Pinto anyone? Sharing the wealth disrupts the system that benefits the few at the very top. But it’s time to share the wealth, literally.
We must end the trend of neglecting our most vulnerable workers. It’s only a matter of time before you too are subject to the unfair practices on your job and you will utilize your First Amendment right to assemble and petition the government to redress grievances (yeah, the constitution protects more than just the right to bear arms).
And take a look at what their demands are: 1) better working conditions, 2) a living wage, 3) the recognition of the right to form independent unions, 4) a halt to sexual harassment, and 5) legal protection from handling hazardous chemicals. These are some of the most basic work conditions that many Americans enjoy every day. But you want to frame these Mexican workers as being lazy and demanding too much? Shame on you.
We somehow have lost site of the importance of unions. They ensure equitable wages and fair working conditions. And to provide an example of how far capital and corporations will go to resist unions, many organizers in Kentucky were shot at, beaten, and stabbed all for seeking safer working conditions for their families. The message was and is loud and clear: you don’t matter.
#I Stand In Solidarity with the Maquiladora Workers of Ciudad Juárez
Kishonna L. Gray, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. She actively blogs about social justice issues at www.kishonnagray.com, www.nymgamer.com, and at https://kinja.com/lachezbippy. Journey with her on Twitter @DrGrayThaPhx.
Manifest...My Reality: Seeing the World through the eyes of the 'other'