A MIDWEST AIRPORT — “We were robbed! The bosses cheated us!” These are the only printable comments describing how airport janitors were cheated out of eight hours pay by racist ABM Industries bosses. ABM cleaners, mostly immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Africa, and Asia, were paid eight hours short on their July 17 paychecks. The bosses blamed it on the “new time keeping system.” The real reason is racism.
Anti-immigrant Nazi-like raids conducted by ICE and Homeland Security, racist movements like the Minutemen and a failing economy have produced a racist anti-immigrant climate in the U.S. ABM bosses thought they could take advantage of already super-exploited immigrant workers by stealing eight hours pay. Also, they paid some of the black workers full pay, trying to divide citizens from immigrants. But a black PLP member and union shop steward organized the workers to resist this fascist attack.
A meeting was held at the home of a co-worker and CHALLENGE reader, where we discussed what to do. We agreed to file a mass grievance and to try to get all the victimized workers to sign on. We also requested an emergency meeting with the union leadership.
An SEIU leader misled the most militant workers (and CHALLENGE readers) into thinking he was not coming to the airport, when in fact he actually did! He wanted no part of us because he was afraid of being called on to do something to get the workers’ the eight hours owed. So we called for a second union meeting. Some workers distributed a PLP flier that attacked the SEIU leadership for supporting the racist bosses.
At the next meeting, with everyone there, the workers put the misleader under pressure. Some workers got into a heated exchange with the SEIU misleader who shouted, “I’m not the enemy!” He hurried up and left! The workers won that round!
Later, the union leader reluctantly filed the grievance. ABM bosses were extremely upset that a few workers would defy them. They even called the shop steward into the office to attempt to intimidate him and find out how the workers were going to fight back. The shop steward kept his cool and the bosses learned nothing! It was a clumsy fascist attempt to stop the workers from resisting.
ABM workers scored a small victory and got the eight hours owed them! The bosses underestimated the anger and ability of workers to unite across nation, race and gender. Officially, we lost the grievance, but we’re still getting paid from the main corporate office. The airport bosses hate this!
Frederick Douglass, the great antislavery freedom fighter said, “Power concedes nothing without struggle.” Self-critically, we could have done more. But a few workers, mostly regular CHALLENGE readers, collectively contributed to this struggle, “from each according to ability.”
More fascist attacks are coming because the racist bosses are in a global crisis. If we are to survive and defeat fascism with communist revolution, we must learn how to organize under any and all circumstances, including the most extreme. Workers, soldiers, and students need PLP!