What do a Forever 21 dress, the World Cup stadium in Qatar, and landscaped yards in Long Island have in common?
All three are commonly produced by migrant workers. In the U.S. and globally, migrant workers often face poverty, exploitation, and a justice system that is stacked against them.
Despite these challenges, workers throughout history have been a source of collective strength, demanding fair treatment and access to democracy. Today is May Day—also known as International Workers’ Day—which was first celebrated in the United States 1886 with nationwide strikes calling for eight-hour workday laws.
On May Day 2006, immigrant workers staged one of the largest protests in U.S. history. “A Day Without Immigrants” was a one-day strike followed by weeks of demonstrations that brought together union members and immigrant workers in over fifty cities across the country. Undocumented people led the strike, emphasizing that immigration and labor policy are intertwined.
In the United States today, we rarely talk about the labor movement-ironically, International Workers’ Day is an official holiday in 66 countries, but not in the country where it began. Questions around immigration and labor are central to our history, our national identity, and our role in the international community. Here are some resources to help you learn more about migrant labor this May Day, including films, lesson plans, filmmaker interviews, and recommended reading:
In the Shadow of the Stadium
Screen The Workers Cup, a new film about migrant workers building the 2022 World Cup stadium in Qatar. A reminder that labor exploitation is often invisible, but embedded in our daily activities—even in the sports we love. The Workers Cup is available for organizations to screen for free starting June 4. Sign up to host a screening in your community at communitynetwork.amdoc.org.
Where’d You Get That Dress?
Learn about Forever 21 and the garment industry’s labor practices with the Made in LA lesson plan. In this lesson, watch clips from the bilingual film Made in LA (POV 2006) and compare current conditions in the garment industry with those at the turn of the 20th century. Here are some tips for taking action around labor issues in your community.
“The words ‘working poor’ ought to be an oxymoron.”
“The idea that you can work full time and still be poor in this society is a real crime.” So said filmmaker Roger Weisberg in his Behind the Lens interview about Waging a Living (POV 2006). Listen to this radio interview with Weisberg and Barbara Ehrenrich about the film, and this panel discussion from WNET Studios about the working poor in New York City.
Meet the 98-year old Chinese-American radical who got her start reading Marx and Hegel.
American Revolutionary is the story of Grace Lee Boggs, a philosopher and activist who spent over 75 years on the front lines of social justice movements in America. According to Grace, activism is not just about opposing the status quo–we need a vision of what a just society could look like. Reflecting on how new technologies are changing the workplace, she poses a revolutionary question: “What would human beings do when they were not needed for work and for labor to produce?” Screen the film through the Community Network and download the discussion guide for background information (including that explainer on Hegel’s dialectics you’ve been waiting for), plus more discussion prompts.
Border Wars in Suburbia
In Farmingville, the hate-based attempted murders of two Mexican day laborers catapult a small Long Island town into national headlines. The film raises questions immigrant labor, racism, and how a community defines its own economic and social borders. Screen Farmingville through the Community Network and host a discussion about how U.S. labor policy and culture are responding to an increasingly globalized economy.