BROWNSVILLE, November 27 - The end of November is here once again, in what has become a tradition throughout the United States to gather with family and friends and enjoy pleasant moments, food, smiles and conversations.
Many homes will engage in reflection, some deeper than others, on why they are thankful and warrants their family’s gratitude.
Health, family, a roof over one’s head, jobs; these are just some of the most common things people include of their list of blessings. Rarely does society focus on the contribution of different sectors in the population to our wellbeing as something for which to give thanks. We hope to highlight the contribution of working families, especially immigrant working families as a reason warranting our gratitude. Fuerza del Valle Workers’ Center gives thanks to working families on this special day and beyond this holiday by consistently supporting the transformation of our society to achieve more just and equitable communities. We urge families to reflect on this.
The “Texas Miracle,” a phenomenon many of our politicians are quick to make reference to when speaking of Texas, is in large due to the construction industry with record amounts of projects in every major urban area of the state. There are close to one million construction workers who build our state. They labor in the most dangerous state to work in construction, with the most deaths on the job than any other field in any other state.
Construction companies, contractors, subcontractors and society have another reason to be grateful this November. It is thanks to the construction workers the construction industry has managed to grow at the pace it has, making an estimated $54 billion a year. Without Texan construction workers our state would not flourish as it has. We should give thanks to the men and women who labor every day to build our state, from roads to schools, government buildings, private businesses and homes. In giving thanks to Texan construction workers we should acknowledge that about half of them labor in our state without documents. In other words, without immigrant workers our state would be unable to build itself.
Beyond Thanksgiving we should demonstrate our gratitude by supporting and prioritizing the transformation of the construction industry to make it one more accountable to working families, where there is proper safety training, adequate water and water breaks, and try to ensure that the rampant problem of wage theft is no longer embedded with construction work. Texas worker centers, such as the Workers Defense Project and Fuerza del Valle Workers’ Center will be pushing for new legislation this legislative session to support working families and make the construction industry more accountable to workers.
Many families will not cook their own meals this thanksgiving. Rather they will have domestic workers prepare the meals, the home, and the children for the holiday. Countless professionals depend on domestic workers to take care of their homes, to cook their meals, to take care of their children and their parents in order to be able to fulfill their own careers and enjoy their free time as they do. This Thanksgiving let us give thanks to domestic workers who take care of homes and families and allow for vast sectors of society to work. Let us give thanks beyond this symbolic holiday and support domestic workers struggle to end wage theft, sexual abuse, mistreatments, sub-poverty wages and other rampant labor injustice domestic workers face on a day to day basis.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance has been instrumental in galvanizing workers’ centers and community organizations that focus with domestic workers on these issues and have successfully supported the passage of Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in California, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts. The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights widens labor rights under state law for domestic workers. Fuerza del Valle is committed to support this movement for economic justice.
As we lay out our Thanksgiving spread and eat our meals at this and every holiday, let us remember the men and women who harvest our food in the fields of America. Let us be conscious of the families who work hard to put food on our table and the supply chain that allows for this to happen. Let us think of the millions of farmworkers, tens of thousands from the Rio Grande Valley, a historical hub for migrant workers, who diligently harvest the fields. Let us think of the warehouse workers and the truck drivers who do their part in this supply chain as well as the retail workers who work at Wal-Marts, HEBs, and other supermarkets of America. Let us think of all the workers who take part in getting food to our table. We should think of them and thank them for fulfilling such sacred work, and for allowing us to nourish our bodies and the health of our families.
Warehouse workers, retails workers and farmworkers are organizing across the country to fight poverty and exploitation in our supply chain. Let our gratitude extend from one special holiday and into concrete support of these historic campaigns by showing solidarity with these workers. This means attending their events, respecting picket lines and most importantly listening.
This thanksgiving Fuerza del Valle Workers’ Center recognizes and appreciate the contribution of all working families, documented and undocumented, to society and urges you to acknowledge them in your holiday dinner and to give thanks to them on a day-to-day basis by supporting the movement for economic justice.
Hector Guzman Lopez is an immigrant worker from Guanajuato who coordinates the Fuerza del Valle Workers’ Center and works for the South Texas Civil Rights Project.
Erika Galindo is a media advisor for Fuerza del Valle Workers' Center. She attended Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi where she served as managing editor at Island Waves Student Newspaper. Erika edits the Fuerza del Valle Newsletter.