World March for Peace and Nonviolence

Wellington, October 2, 2009 - Punta de Vacas, January 2010

April 30 2007

Letter to the Workers of North America

Workers of my country, On May 1, workers all over the world celebrate a day of solidarity inspired by the Haymarket martyrs, eight anarchists unjustly convicted of murder in 1886 following a riot in Chicago. Four were later hanged. Ironically, this event has been all but forgotten in the U.S. and we now celebrate Labor Day in September.

It’s regrettable that the noble slogan for which our union brothers of Chicago died has been forgotten: ” Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep and eight hours for recreation.” And with every May 1st that passes, we have less to celebrate and more to lament. While the big economic groups, the Right, and the Government continue to enjoy their privileges, millions of North Americans work like slaves all week long with no time for their families, neighborhoods and schools.

The old industrial corridors have been transformed into shopping centers selling products made by exploited children in other latitudes. One half of the people of Mexico live in poverty. In Canada, despite years of “economic growth”, the social safety net has been shredded by government cuts, and tuition hikes mean the average university student now graduates $20,000 in debt.

Three quarters of Americans don’t have a job that provides decent wages and health benefits. And the world’s 946 billionaires now control more wealth than the lower 55% of humanity, made unimaginably rich by the labor of others. Immigrants, who have played a great part in labor struggles and contributed so much to building this country, suffer the worst exploitation.

The cruel raids of mass arrests carried out by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are tearing families apart, seizing mothers at work leaving their children stranded, handcuffing children, arresting first and asking questions later. This is inhuman and it has to stop. The time has come to say: Enough! It’s time to imitate the heroes of Chicago who, despite the manipulation of the press and contrary to the interests of the government of the time, organized together and said No, generating awareness and disobedience.

We want dignified and productive work. We want our wealth to be invested in schools, industry, housing and public spaces for our people. We want to defy speculative capital and usury, and denounce corrupt and deceitful practices. We want to fight so that the absurd relation between capital and labor is transformed in favor of human beings and their progress.

Today, profits that are not reinvested in the company or directed towards its expansion or diversification, do not create new sources of work and are instead funneled into financial speculation. This benefits only a small handful of people and causes serious harm to workers and their families.

And so, I say we must fight and demand that capital be redirected from today’s usury towards productive reinvestment generating more industry, more work and more leisure. This can only be done when the management and direction of companies is shared between organized workers and conscientious business-people. This must be our main struggle today.

We are not against the profits that may be generated through increased productivity and honest labor, but today it is imperative to reclaim the sacred slogan that our Chicago martyrs fought for: “Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep and eight hours for recreation.”

Next Post:
April 30-May 6: South American Trip, Meeting with Tomas HIrsch and Giorgio Schultz; Protest March in Santiago; and Days of Spiritual Inspiration in the Andes