UCLA Labor Center

Building a Culture of Cross-Border Solidarity

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dnb4-23rtsmarch20.jpg SAN FRANCISCO, CA - 23APRIL06 - Fifteen thousand people rally and march in San Francisco, demanding legalization and equality for undocumented immigrants, and protesting bills in the US Congress which would criminalize immigrant status and establish huge guest worker programs for large corporations. Copyright David Bacon

2011 / David Bacon

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In the period since the North American Free Trade Agreement has come into effect, the economies of the United States and Mexico have become more integrated than ever. Through Plan Merida and partnerships on security, the military and the drug war, the political and economic policies pursued by the U.S. and Mexican governments are more coordinated than they’ve ever been.

Working people on both sides of the border are not only affected by this integration. Workers and their unions in many ways are its object. These policies seek to maximize profits and push wages and benefits to the bottom, manage the flow of people displaced as a result, roll back rights and social benefits achieved over decades, and weaken working class movements in both countries.

All this makes cooperation and solidarity across the U.S./Mexico border more important than ever. After a quarter century in which the development of solidarity relationships was interrupted during the cold war, unions and workers are once again searching out their counterparts and finding effective and appropriate ways to support each other.

This paper is not a survey of all the efforts that have taken place, especially since the NAFTA debate restarted the solidarity process in the early 1990s. Instead, it seeks to set out some questions, and invite responses and contributions from people involved in this cross border movement. Among these questions are the following:

  • What is the history of cross-border solidarity? How can we discard the blinders forged by the cold war, and expand our vision of what is possible?
  • How is the political context changing on both sides of the border? Why is solidarity a necessary response to political and economic challenges?
  • One of our biggest advantages is the movement of people from Mexico to the U.S. and back. What part do migrants and the struggle for their rights play in solidarity between workers of both countries?
  • How can we develop new ways of reaching across the border?