Latin American workers sold out by trade union

Over the past three years FRFI has regularly supported the struggles by low-paid cleaning workers in London for better wages and living conditions. These battles have overwhelmingly been led and organised by the Latin American Workers Association (LAWAS), which has consistently linked this economic struggle to the fight of all workers against capitalism and of immigrants against Britain’s racist immigration laws. Now this principled stance has meant LAWAS has come under attack from the opportunists who control the union Unite.


LAWAS brings together a wide range of highly political comrades: some who have fled repressive regimes like that in Colombia, where state and paramilitary forces constantly threaten trade unionists with imprisonment and murder; others from countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador which are moving in a progressive direction and directly confronting imperialism in the region.

The task of organising and representing Latin American workers in London is not an easy one. Even the precise size of the community is difficult to estimate. Research indicates that it could be anywhere between 31,211 and 258,605 depending on which sources and statistical methods are used. Estimating the undocumented population is even more difficult since it is by definition below the radar. In a recent survey of 413 Latin Americans in London 22% had a European passport and 19.6% a British passport while 17% said they had no valid documents.  50% said they earn less than £1,000 per month.

As reported in the last FRFI, although LAWAS was initially supported by the trade union Unite, the relationship began to deteriorate when Unite refused to support several workplace struggles – in particular that at the Willis building in the city of London. In September 2009 Unite ordered LAWAS to vacate its office in the union’s southeast region HQ. In November LAWAS issued a detailed statement, setting out how it has been progressively undermined and attacked by Unite. The full statement is on our website at www.revolutionary

El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!

FRFI 212 December 2009 / January 2010


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