Immigrant workers have contributed much
While President Trump whips up rage among his supporters over the desperate, 2,000-mile walk of Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty and seeking asylum, it is time to be reminded of a few important contributions made by immigrant workers that all working people have benefited from.
Chicago in the late 1880s saw the birth of the national movement for the eight-hour day. Industrial laborers, like those who butchered and processed livestock in the Chicago stockyards, were working 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, for $1.50 a day. Some were even putting in 100-hour work weeks. Workers were demanding eight hours of work at livable wages, eight hours for sleep and eight hours to raise their families and leisure time.
Work done over eight hours a shift, or an accumulated weekly of 40 hours, would be considered “overtime pay.” This battle won by unions in October 1940 is now the law of the land. In Chicago this struggle was led by immigrant labor (Germans, Czechs and Irish).
Fast-forward to today in Hawaii and much of America, wages have flattened out and haven’t kept up with inflation. This has forced many of us to work two or more jobs. Let’s give credit to striking Filipina housekeepers like Nerissa Acdal of Local 5 (as reported by Star-Advertiser columnist Lee Cataluna on Oct. 10) on Oahu, who have rallied around the sensible slogan, “One Job Should Be Enough!” Nerissa’s husband works seven days a week. Sixty-five percent of Hawaii hotel workers are Filipino immigrants and over half are women. Since Hawaii’s plantation era and the industrial development of America, immigrant workers have been in the forefront of positive economic and social change.
Or take the nationwide fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage, first led by East Indian immigrant Kshama Sawant of Seattle. The federal minimum wage hasn’t gone up in over 10 years, but her early leadership and activism on this basic survival issue has forced it into the spotlight.
The movement has even influenced Gov. David Ige to say that if re-elected he will support a $15 minimum hourly wage in Hawaii.
Working people of all backgrounds should unite and fight for a better society for all.
Raymond Catania, Lihue