By Liam Woodworth-Cook
While our government was shut down, two major strikes were occurring in North America. Just south of Brownsville, Texas, in the Mexican city of Matamoros, more than 25,000 Mexican workers at dozens of factories went on strike, demanding a 20 percent pay increase and annual bonus. In one march, they detoured and approached the United States border, calling out to American factory workers to join them. Nine companies agreed to meet the workers’ demands. Most of these workers wouldn’t be receiving a wage increase that the rest of minimum wage workers of Mexico will be receiving. This is due to the specific minimum wage along the border of Texas, which also has a higher cost of living.
Another historic moment occurred in L.A. A weeklong strike has paved way for a victory. Last Tuesday a vote by a supermajority approved a new settlement with the school district. Fighting against privatization, the teachers won full-time nurses in every school, more counselors and librarians, a decrease in class size and a 6 percent pay raise without a healthcare trade off. The community effort from teachers and parents also pulled larger union oversight regarding charter allocations, and support for those charters. The victory also yielded further community demands such as ending racist “random searches” and creating an immigrant defense fund.
The size of L.A. has made it difficult to organize; this strike is a massive first for the community and the power of people. Parents were supportive of the teachers, and vice-versa. It was a strike for education, for the students, teachers and community.
This strike is in a wave of teachers’ movements that stretched throughout 2018, in many red states, including West Virginia. In LA, 32,000 members were picketing at every school, along with 15,000 parents and community members.
This is how change is enacted. Organized movements from ordinary people.
North of the United States in British Columbia, another fight is taking place. The sovereign indigenous Wet’suwet’en people are being assaulted by the police force of Canada. The Wet’suwet’en people inhabit a small territory that was never ceded to the colonizing government. The mounted police force is working in conjunction with the company Coastal GasLink, which is trying to build a 416-mile, 6.2 billion dollar pipeline that would cross through the indigenous territory.
The checkpoints into this First Nations (indigenous peoples) territory has been the site of standoffs for several years. The Wet’suwet’en territory is roughly the size of New Jersey and has a thriving ecosystem of salmon, bears, berries, moose, eagles and plants that are forageable as both food and medicine.
Chief Madeek, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader, states, “Our children, our land, our future, is here and that’s what we are going to protect.” He adds, “Our people never ever surrendered or ceded any portion of this territory. We are the rightful titleholders of the territory, we are the caretakers of this land and that’s what we are going to do, take care of this land.”
The chiefs have not consented whatsoever to this invasion and destruction of land. Colonization and erasure of North America’s indigenous peoples continues to take place.