[Excerpt] The generic Central American shopping mall is an air-conditioned ark of plate glass and aluminum, tightly sealed against the city's boiling sea of poverty. Inside, scrubbed and suspicious cafeteria employees serve up expensive meals on orange trays. My lunch companion today is a young labor rights activist, in a country where military death squads run by big business have murdered thousands of union members. Currently a student of labor law, he has risked life and limb for the cause of international solidarity.
It is the rule in this region of the world —much more so than in the U.S. — that to take on the boss is to play with your life. A couple years ago, he says, as I left work downtown, a truck pulled up behind me. Three guys in civilian clothes jumped out, forced me into my car, and made me to crouch down on my hands and knees. They were hitting me with their pistols and swearing at me. I was swearing back at them, to provoke them. I wanted them to kill me right there, not take me some place for torture. He has also witnessed how U.S. labor is in the cross hairs. Incredulously, he describes being clubbed by the Los Angeles police at a Justice for Janitors rally. I couldn't believe it — I didnt know the police were allowed to do that in the United States! he exclaims.
Like other labor activists throughout the Americas, he is hoping that U.S. unions will invest more in strategic international campaigns. This, to him, is the key to saving lives, jobs, and living standards. His question is urgent: How are we going to link workers' struggles from country to country?
""Gapatistas" Win a Victory,"
Labor Research Review:
24, Article 12.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/lrr/vol1/iss24/12