More migrant workers live outside of their country of birth than ever before – 232 million, or 3 percent of the world’s population, according to the United Nations. Most have gone to the United States, followed by Russia and Germany.
The U.S. has a history of migrant worker activism. In the 1950s, Arizona native Cesar Chavez, then a farm worker roaming from place to place, became a community and labor organizer. His firsthand knowledge of the hardships that farm workers faced led him to found a union and organize protests when laborers were treated unfairly.
In a move that received the support of 14 million Americans, Chavez organized a national boycott of grapes and went on a hunger strike in 1968. More importantly, it gave farm workers protections against favoritism, bribery and the pesticides many were exposed to in the fields. It also increased their wages and improved their working conditions.
International Migrants Day, December 18, was designated by the United Nations in 2000 in an effort to help raise awareness of the many ways migrant workers benefit their home and host countries.
Today, both native and migrant workers continue to assert their rights and demand better conditions. The Fight for 15 movement in the United States is pushing for a higher minimum wage and the right for fast food and retail workers to form a union without retaliation. The group recently staged one-day strikes in 190 different U.S. cities.