The Justice for Jeyasre Speaking Tour Stops in Arizona
September 23rd, 2021
Borders are easily crossed by corporate garment brands. They rake in massive profits from suppliers who cheaply produce clothing in countries with low wages, large labor pools, and insufficient worker protections. While borders are open to brands, they hold workers in low wage jobs and, when workers do cross them, provide employers with the potent threat of deportation if workers organize or report abuse like sexual harassment. When the Justice for Jeyasre speaking tour stopped in Arizona on September 23rd, Thivya’s call to build solidarity across and against these borders resonated deeply with those listening.
With nearly 40 people in attendance, Thivya shared Jeyasre’s story and TTCU’s efforts to transform conditions at Eastman for women workers. In attendance that night were labor leaders from multiple unions, immigrant rights groups and community leaders including Fred Yamashita, the Executive Director of the Arizona AFL-CIO, and Karina Ruiz, the Executive Director of the Arizona Coalition of Dreamers in Action, a United we Dream Affiliated Organization. All committed to support Thivya’s call for solidarity to stand with TTCU in the fight against gender-based violence and harassment.
Yamashita, backed up TTCU by calling for unions to work across borders and resist attempts to divide and conquer workers around the world:
“We understand that the struggle is inextricable. Unions here in the United States are facing the same issues that workers around the world are suffering…One of the strategies companies have used with success is divide and conquer. We’ve been a victim of our own inability to work across borders. I feel the opportunity to work together. I think it’s a stronger possibility now, than maybe ever.”
While borders may separate workers, struggles unite them. With echos of how employers leverage discrimination against Dalit women in India, as happened to Jeyasre, undocumented women in the United States are also subjected to threats of retaliation when they speak out against workplaces abuse. Ruiz shared her experience in fast food on the call:
“Sexual harassment happens in our community and we don’t denounce it because of immigration status. People shouldn’t have to be afraid to report a coworker or manager. When you’re a victim of harassment it shouldn’t be a struggle because of your status, and women especially have struggled with that in the workplace.”
The Justice for Jeyasre speaking tour will continue building international alliances, whether it’s against gender based violence and harassment inflicted upon women in Tamil Nadu or undocumented women in Arizona. The next stop is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 30th.