There was an outpouring of support from the local labor unions, worker centers and members of Asian and South Asian diaspora especially Tamils who attended the Philadelphia stop of the #JusticeForJeyasre speaking tour. Participants in the tour stop shared personal experiences with workplace fights from garment shops in Bangladesh to coffee shops in Philadelphia, reflecting on parallel injustices and strategies to build worker power on the job.
One attendee works as a librarian in Philadelphia and has family from Tamil Nadu, India. Speaking in Tamil, she asked Thivya about organizing strategies, such as how to talk with workers in the face of harsh retaliation for organizing, and which institutions do you trust when there’s so much corruption. What started as a presentation on the #JusticeForJeyasre expanded to a discussion of tactics that transcend industries and countries.
Thivya Rakini spoke with members of Philadelphia Jobs With Justice, The Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Philly chapter, the UNITE HERE Philly local, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Anakbayan Philly and others.
This stop made it clear that strong diaspora networks already connect many workers from the US to India and other parts of Asia. 5.4 million South Asian people live in the United States, and most of them work. Whether they’re living in Tamil Nadu or Philadelphia, they struggle with exploitation in the workplace and many join unions to improve conditions. Many of these union members in Philadelphia joined our speaking tour stop and connected with Thivya’s story. Not only do these members of the South Asian diaspora also face harassment in their workplace, they also understand the hostile environment Thivya and members of the TTCU must organize under. It’s with these shared experiences that this group, as workers, South Asians, and Tamils, committed to organizing their fellow diaspora members and union brothers and sisters to support TTCU’s fight to secure Justice for Jeyasre.