Foreign workers are standing up to the government’s shameful fear-mongering, and it’s brilliant

Theresa May green
Emily Apple

A group of migrant workers and their supporters has found a perfect way to fight back against xenophobia and show the UK how much they contribute – by withholding their labour for a day.

One Day Without Us has been set up to counter racism and will be held on 20 February 2017 – the UN World Day of Social Justice. The Facebook group set up to organise the day describes how “immigration has become a festering toxic obsession in British politics”.

It goes on to state:

Now, as a consequence of the June referendum result, xenophobic and racist attitudes previously lurking on the political fringes have erupted into the mainstream. We live in frightening times indeed, when government ministers can describe immigrants as ‘negotiating chips’, and threaten to ‘name and shame’ businesses that employ foreign workers, as if these workers were something shameful.

The group is calling for people – both immigrants and their supporters – to “absent themselves from the activities they normally do”, asking them:

To close their restaurants and businesses, leave classes, universities, and workplaces, and demonstrate by their absence what they have created, what they have given to British society and how essential and valuable they are.

But they also recognise that these things might not be possible and have other suggestions:

Strike or take the day off work. Let your absence also remind the country of your presence. And if you can’t do that, then join us in other ways. March, hold parties and meetings. Do it in your town, your community, your workplace, your school, college, or university.

While recognising this is “an unprecedented step”, the group states that:

We don’t expect immigrants to do this alone. We call on all British citizens who share our vision to support this event, because we believe it should be a day of solidarity and celebration.

Mhairi Black, the UK’s youngest MP, delivered a stark wake-up call this week over the rise of fascism and the “ugly and downright scary rhetoric” of the recent Conservative Party Conference.

By supporting and promoting this day, we have an opportunity to heed this wake-up call. Just last week, women in Poland showed the power of strikes and protest in overturning their government’s proposed total ban on abortion. Following their protests, Jarosław Gowin, the Minister of Science and Higher Education, said the protests had “caused us to think and taught us humility”.

One Day Without Us has the potential to highlight in a similar way the massive contributions that migrant workers make to the UK. It is a chance to highlight and oppose the racist, xenophobic attitude which is spreading through society today, egged on by right-wing politicians and the tabloid press. But for it to be successful, we all need to get involved.

Get Involved!

– Join the One Day Without Us Facebook group, put 20 February in your diary, and start organising.

Featured image via Flickr/UK Home Office

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