The World Day of Social Justice discussion event hosted by GlobeMed at UR served as a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy, unity, and collaboration in promoting social justice.
Our chapter partnered with several University of Rochester student groups to put on this event. The Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth (SAVVY), College Feminists, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the Minority Students Advisory Board (MSAB) each worked with one of our ghU coordinators, Bianca Hall, to hone in on one angle of this year’s theme for World Day of Social Justice, which was “Workers on the Move: the Quest for Social Justice.” What resulted was a multidimensional discussion that peeled back the complex layers of issues marring migrant workers in the United States and abroad today.
MSAB discussed why migrants seek labor in the United States, specifically speaking about the American Dream. College Feminists brought in guests who work to combat the crippling cycle of abuse that female migrant workers and farmers face in Monroe County, where Rochester is located. Meanwhile, SDS discussed the disturbing use of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees as reduced or free labor. SAVVY highlighted the effects of migrant labor on food costs—although food costs are low, migrant laborers are unjustly paid for the amount of work that goes into producing those low-costing foods. Finally, GlobeMed moderated the small-group discussions that was designed to reflect on and consider all four viewpoints in a larger context.
In my small group, members of every organization reflected on how large a scale this problem has become in the United States and how the solution is not so simple. Just as one member pointed out the importance of legal rights and protection for migrant workers, another questioned how to protect migrant workers when they themselves ignore the lack of respect and rights they face in the workplace just to salvage any money they receive. However, as my group discussed these issues in the context of Rochester, New York, and somewhat the country at large, I questioned how countries could work together at an international level to solve the migrant worker problem. Workers often migrate to find better job or salary opportunities than ones granted by their home country and countries rarely protect migrants until they become citizens; thus, the simplified view would suggest countries should take better efforts to protect incoming migrants or de-incentivizing citizens from migrating altogether. As this discussion event proved though, the answer is not so easy, but with a multifaceted attack, the solution is far more attainable than with any singular effort.
Through numerous perspectives, whether formally from the four co-sponsoring organizations or informally from the many audience members in attendance, the underlying reasons behind migrant worker issues were slowly uncovered and solutions were proffered in response throughout this event. Despite the lack of solutions resulting from discussion, the event was a huge success in promoting awareness in the campus community about a prevalent social justice problem plaguing our world today.
- Mahir Khan