How the Powerless Win Power

Economy, Policies

How the Powerless Win Power

Immigrant workers—particularly the undocumented—are denied basic rights, but through worker centers, they’ve aggregated their strength and bettered their lives.

When José Obeth Santiz Cruz arrived in Franklin County, Vermont, to work on a dairy farm, following the journey from Chiapas that so many of his young fellow villagers had traveled before, he didn’t expect to return home so quickly. But by the time he was 20, he came back to his family in a casket, after getting sucked into a mechanized gutter scraper while he was working alone in a barn and choking to death.

Cruz’s death formed a tragic connection between local labor activists and the dairy workers, eventually giving rise to a “solidarity collective,” which began to organize the dairy workforce while educating the public on the brutal working conditions they faced—60-to-80-hour weeks in hazardous conditions, in many cases earning less than the state’s minimum wage.

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