The Justice for Jeyasre Speaking Tour Stops in the Bay Area
November 10th, 2021
High school students are staging walkouts to demand their administration change how they handle sexual harassment on campus. Immigrant women are forming worker-run collectives to ensure they can work with dignity and demand more labor protections. In the Bay Area, diverse groups are often organizing to improve people’s lives. The above examples from the Chinese Progressive Association and La Colective, respectively, are just a couple examples that were shared during the Justice For Jeyasre Speaking Tour’s Bay Area stop.
With each group, and each campaign, Jeyasre’s legacy resonated with the organizers and workers who attended. Despite Thivya joining from halfway across the world, despite translating Thivya’s presentation into 3 different languages, and despite the myriad identities on the call, over 50 attendees felt the tragedy of losing a 21-year old woman to gender based violence and harassment in a South Indian garment factory and pledged their solidarity in holding global fashion brands accountable for conditions in their factories.
The attendees were from the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center, Jobs with Justice San Francisco, Unite Here Local 2, Chinese Progressive Association, La Colectiva, APALA Alameda, Trauma Informed San Jose, California Trade Justice Coalition, Equality Labs, Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, Asian Americans for Equality, and other progressive unions and organizations. A diverse group united in their solidarity.
Dr. Anibel Ferus-Comelo from the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center noted, caste discrimination has been brought to America. “ These forms of oppression transfer across countries, we need to make sure solidarity also gets transported”.
One way this happened at the Bay Area tour stop was through strategy sharing. An organizer from SEIU shared that they too are pursuing brand accountability to address sexual harassment in the cleaning industry and asked Thivya what the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labor Union (TTCU) has seen work. For Thivya, the clear answer was international solidarity.
Despite global fashion brands pointing fingers at suppliers, TTCU knows that it is the high production and low costs demanded from brands that drive down factory conditions. The global fashion brands have the power and resources to improve conditions, and that’s why TTCU is pursuing an enforceable brand agreement. “Only this international level of solidarity can make them realize they are responsible,” said Thivya. It’s going to take intense international pressure to win, and that’s why these speaking tour stops are so important.
This kind of diverse, international solidarity is only possible because Thivya is able to share Jeyasre’s legacy with so many different organizations. Through Jeyasre’s story, Thivya and the TTCU are transcending borders, identities and even languages to build a strong, global labor movement that forces brands to take responsibility for gender and caste based violence and harassment in their factories.