Leslie Matthews |
For the past two years, most of the energy of the Vermont Workers' Center has been dedicated to the Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign. Together with thousands of Vermonters, we have talked with our neighbors, shared our stories, educated our legislators, marched, rallied and sung, and we have done what few thought possible — moved Vermont to make a commitment to fundamental reform of our healthcare system, to reform that recognizes and respects the human right to health of each and every Vermonter.
This Saturday, we are asking all people of conscience in Vermont to rally in solidarity with another human rights struggle — the struggle against Arizona's recently enacted SB1070, a bill which encourages local law enforcement to stop people based on the color of their skin. SB1070 criminalizes whole communities (including Indigenous peoples, the only non-immigrants in the U.S.) in order to enforce an unjust and unworkable immigration policy.
There are many reasons why we are standing up on Saturday to oppose SB1070, but three are particularly important:
1. This bill criminalizes workers. We are a workers' rights organization, and we know from our work in communities in Vermont, from twelve years of operating a workers' rights hotline, and from discussions with other workers' centers around the country, that immigrant workers are the most vulnerable, exploited and abused workers in the U.S. If we do not support immigrant workers' rights, we cannot raise standards for any workers. As we seek an economically just and democratic Vermont and U.S., we must insist that all workers have the right to livable wages, healthcare — and to be free from racial profiling at their jobs and in their communities.
2. The promoters of this bill are using racism to distract us from the real causes of the economic crisis. Many, if not most, Americans are feeling an incredible amount of economic insecurity right now. Many have suffered from, and many more have reason to fear, layoffs, foreclosures, and loss of health insurance. But the economic crisis was not caused by immigration. It was caused by the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, who were handsomely rewarded for their deeds with trillions of taxpayer money. Those who profit from unjust economic arrangements have always used racism to divide working people, to make us fear and blame each other instead of uniting to demand economic justice. As we build a movement to secure our human rights to healthcare, to housing, and to decent work, we must oppose racist legislation like SB1070 and stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Arizona's communities.
3. At the heart of our Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign are a set of values that put people before profit. We believe that healthcare is a public good, and should not be treated as a commodity, for corporations to trade in and profit off of. At the root of our country's influx of immigrants, on the other hand, are a set of policies pursued by our government for the last several decades through free trade agreements and other instruments of corporate globalization. The North American Free Trade Agreement, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and other similar measures put profits before people. Multinational food conglomerates have profited handsomely, but small-scale family farmers in Mexico and Central America have been forced off the land. These are the people who are desparate enough to leave their families, cross the border in Arizona, and seek any work they can find — including on Vermont's dairy farms.
Instead of racist legislation like SB1070, we need an immigration policy based on human rights principles, and a global economic policy based on sustainable development. We believe that another world is possible — a world where economic justice everywhere makes immigration a choice, and not a necessity. In order to get there, we need strong a grassroots movement for healthcare as a human right, for the human rights of immigrants, for economic and environmental justice globally. We invite all Vermonters to join us on Saturday, and to work with us in building that movement.