Immigrant workers: Organize!

Speech by IWW member, Paul, on Mayday 2014:

Workers, today is your day. If you moved to this country, like I did 15 years ago, you might have noticed that knowing your working rights in Iceland can often prove difficult. Maybe you’re working without a contract. Maybe you don’t get things like overtime, paid holidays, or paid sick leave. Maybe there’s a lot more rights, that you didn’t even know you had, that your boss didn’t tell you about and isn’t honouring.

We can help you with that. We will listen to how things are in your workplace, inform you of your labour rights, and what you can do to make sure your boss respects and honours them.

This is a day for all workers, but immigrant workers – especially those from outside of Europe – more often than not find themselves doing the jobs most nationals don’t want to do. Why?

Because if arrived from outside Europe, these are the only jobs you can get. This, more often than not, entails jobs of hard physical and emotional labour, often with long hours and low pay.
But this also puts you, the immigrant worker, in a special position in this country. These are all jobs that need doing, work that this society depends on to function, whether we’re talking about construction, the fishing industry, tourism, working with the elderly and the disabled, cooking the food, serving the beer, cleaning the homes and offices.

In other words, your role in your work, in this society, is not only valuable; it’s crucial. This position gives you more power than you think. By speaking with your fellow workers, compiling your grievances, and organising, you can take control of your workplace.

We can help you with that, too. We will work with you, every step of the way, in your devising a plan, in your negotiations, and with any actions you may need to take. Unlike the trade unions you might be paying dues for now, we believe that a union and its workers are one and the same, and we must act together, democratically and transparently, in devising our own aims, in engaging in our own negotiations, and controlling our own workplaces.

The fact of the matter is: Iceland depends on immigration. It depends on immigrants just like you. To work, to pay taxes into the system, to support the salaries of politicians who ignore you, capitalists who exploit you, and trade union that don’t fight for you.

There is a class war going on in Iceland, right now, and it’s one the elite is waging against the working class. But the good news is: they need us, we don’t need them. And there are many, many more of us than there are of them. By talking together, working together, organizing together, and acting together – with techniques that have proved effective for a centiry – we can build a new and more just society within the shell of the old.