Category Archives: Worker’s Rights

Immigrants in solidarity with Wisconsin workers!


Immigrant workers in the United States know what it’s like to be unfairly pitted against workers.  At FIRM, we believe supporting the rights of immigrants and the rights of all workers is the same struggle.

In fact, studies show that immigration reform would raise the floor for all workers.  And conversely, supporting the rights of workers helps all of us, including immigrants.  This is why immigrant communities are rallying in solidarity with Wisconsin workers.

This week, the state’s senate Republicans caught most of the world off guard by staging a late night meeting where they passed Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal that strips nearly all bargaining rights from public workers. The measure was passed despite the absence of all senate Democrats by removing all fiscal aspects of the bill, which in turn nullified the need for a quorum.

Mike Tate, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told the Washington Post:

“The vote does nothing to create jobs, does nothing to strengthen our state, and shows finally and utterly that this was never about anything but raw political power,” . “We now put our total focus on recalling the eligible Republicans who voted for this bill. And we also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall.”

Questions abound about the legitimacy of the move, but most interesting to me is this opinion from Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley who claims it is not constitutional.  The legality may be uncertain, but what is clear is that this bill is wrong for Wisconsin.  It’s wrong for workers. It’s wrong for everyone.

The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled House and then to the governor’s desk for signing. Walker, of course, is anxiously awaiting it.

The actions of Republicans in Wisconsin are in line with what seems to be the strategy of Republicans everywhere: divide our communities, do nothing to actually create jobs, destroy the unions who built America’s middle class, cut a thousand holes in the social programs safety net, cut funding that helps women and children, and give all breaks to the very wealthy.

The good news out of Wisconsin, news every Republican thinking of emulating Wisconsin should consider, is this: the push to recall the Republican state senators is gaining momentum.  It is awesome and inspiring to see the people rising up and pushing back.  This is what democracy looks like!

Meanwhile, if this story has your blood boiling, there is a simple way to get involved. Call Republican Gov. Scott Walker at 866-956-1737 and tell him NOT to sign this bill.

Bush’s Midnight Attack on Farmworker’s

A post by Farmworker Justice has been making the rounds on the blogosphere this week. Apparently the Bush administration is making last minute changes at the Department of Labor that will set migrant farmworkers back to the Bracero era.

CHILDREN FOR HIRE TEXAS

These will be the most far-reaching changes in the laws regulating agricultural guestworker programs since 1942.  They will return us to an era of agricultural labor exploitation that many thought ended decades ago.

The changes cut wage rates and wage protections for both domestic and foreign workers, minimize recruitment obligations inside the U.S. and curtail or eliminate much of the government oversight that is supposed to deter and remedy illegal employer conduct. 

It comes as no shock that while this administration has LOUDLY been proclaiming the “successes” of worksite raids, they are quietly undercutting wages and workers’ rights.

For more, here’s a round-up of coverage:

Nezua at the Unapologetic Mexican discusses the changes

Latina Lista sums it up nicely with a post titled:  Bush Administration now bails out agricultural industry with changes to guestworker program that creates a government sanctioned slave market

Bush’s Parting Gift: Working againstMigrant Farmworkers

America’s Voice Discusses Why Now, more than ever, is not the time for these types of changes.

Agriprocessors Fights Unionization

Apparently, not only are the owners of Agriprocessors facing child labor violation charges, stemming from May’s workplace raid in Postville, Iowa, but they are also fighting to take away the right of undocumented workers to join labor unions.

The Associated Press reports:

Agriprocessors Inc. has gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to urge the justices to reconsider their long-held position that workers in the country illegally have a right to join labor unions.

The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to take the case, but if it does, it could have ramifications for a complicated area of U.S. labor law.

This is unsurprising, given that the raid on their Postville plant happened in the midst of workers attempts to unionize themselves to demand better standards.

A spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Scott Frotman, said the company’s only interest is preventing its workers from organizing and demanding better pay.

“This is another example of how this company uses a broken immigration system to drive down wages and working conditions at its facilities,” Frotman said.

Agriprocessors made headlines in May when 400 of its workers were detained during a raid on its slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa.

On Tuesday, Agriprocessors owner Abraham Aaron Rubashkin, his son Sholom Rubashkin and other managers at the company were charged with hiring minors to work at the Iowa slaughterhouse, including some children younger than 16 who handled saws and meat grinders.

Though misdemeanors, they were the first criminal charges brought against the plant operators and could carry jail time. The company denied the allegations.

After the charges were filed, the Orthodox Union, one of the largest kosher certifiers in the country, said it would suspend kosher supervision of the plant unless the company hires a new chief executive officer within “several weeks.”

Labor groups have long argued that if workplace protections weren’t extended to illegal immigrants, a company could feel free to ignore labor standards with impunity and retaliate against any employees who complained.

Workers Criminalized, Employers Untouched

From a ImmigrationProf Blog today comes a commentary on the lack of employee convictions in the wake of the flurry of recent immigration raids.

Undocumented workers continue to face horrific consequences (including the new tactic of conviction of criminal offenses), while the employers remain unscathed by the law.

Statistical silence on the issue of employer criminal sanctions is not surprising.  Truth is that ICE does not spend many of its resources prosecuting employers, despite what is reported in the media immediately after a raid. And the reality of how raids are conducted suggests that employer prosecutions are hardly a priority.  Otherwise, why would the government remove and convict practically all the witnesses it needs to build a case against the employer – the workers themselves.

ICE continues to wage war on immigrants without addressing the root issues of workplace standards, living wages and job improvement. Scapegoating hard-working immigrants will not deter these employers from exploiting and abusing anyone in the future.

But the mainstream media remains focused on the spectacle of the raids, shouting that ICE is tracking down “illegal” people and perpetuating the myth that these raids are “working”.

But what does “working” mean? If it simply means a horrid fate for the undocumented workers and their families caught in the raids, then yes.  But if it means actually improving jobs and work conditions for U.S. workers or deterrence of bad practices by U.S. employers, then think again!

Click here for full post.

The Common Thread that Binds Us

From the Sanctuary today, a powerful post that speaks to the humanity of us all.

What follows are seven news stories, all from different places and times. Some happened only weeks ago … some years. Some are well known … others obscure. But a common thread runs through them all.

Click here to read the seven stories, from the original post on the Sanctuary.

From Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez dying from a lack of water, to Francisco Castaneda of neglect and cancer, to Luz Dominguez losing a job for having the audacity to ask for fair wages and treatment, to Adriana Torres-Flores left in a holding cell for days without food and water… they share a common thread that binds them.

They are part of the silent and forgotten, living in the shadows, unprotected by laws and regulations most take for granted. It matters not if they toiled in fields to put food on our tables, supplied the weapons of war, or cleaned the rooms we sleep in. Nor does it matter if they ran afoul of the law … they share a common thread that binds them.

They are the other.

They are those who go unseen even in the light of day.

We don’t want to know their names or their stories. We don’t want to hear of their suffering, or know about their dreams and aspirations. We don’t want to have to look them in the eye and see their humanity.

Because if we did for only just one moment, then we might be forced to see not only them …but us …for what we really are.

So hide your eyes, walk quickly as you pass. Don’t acknowledge their presence.

Don’t look at the mother holding her child and see the love between them. Don’t admire the workers, laboring to supply the goods and services on which you rely, for their industriousness. Don’t stop for a moment to smile or even nod a quick hello.

Because if you did, for only just one a moment, you might be forced to see …. the common thread that binds us.

MALDEF Joined United Farm Workers March In Memory of 17-Year-Old Worker

Taken from Immigration Prof Blog:

Mariaphto Last week, MALDEF President and General Counsel John Trasviña joined Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), AFL-CIO, and marched with 500 farm workers to the state capitol in honor of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, a 17-year-old pregnant farm worker, who died from heat-related exhaustion. (For our story on this tragedy, click here.).Ms. Jimenez fell unconscious in the field but her contractors refused to take her to a clinic, costing the young woman her life.

Forty years ago, Senator Robert Kennedy brought national attention to the plight of America’s farm workers. MALDEF now marches in that spirit for basic protections for the men and women who are so vital to providing food for America and the world. During the march at Southside Park, Mr. Trasviña addressed the crowd and his prepared remarks were as follows:

Brothers and sisters, my name is John Trasviña and I am the President and General Counsel of MALDEF. Founded 40 years ago, MALDEF, the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, promotes and protects the rights of 50 million Latinos in the United States through litigation, advocacy, community education and scholarships. I am honored to join this pilgrimage with Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers, and all of you here today.

First, my deepest condolences to the family and survivors of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez and the child she carried.

It is with great sadness that we are gathered here to honor and memorialize the lives of Maria Isabel and her unborn child. But their tragic deaths will not be in vain. Today and every day from this day forward we renew our commitment to bring justice, respect and honor to farm workers in the fields of California and across this nation.

Our anger and tears will become the determination and the fire that burns in our hearts to bring human decency in working conditions to the men, women, including pregnant women, and young people, who labor to provide food for our tables.

All workers deserve decent working conditions. But those who work the hardest should have the greatest protections. Instead we see that those who work the hardest, may have legal protection—but that protection is only good if it is enforced. The protections that could have saved Maria Isabel and her unborn child were not enforced. The governor has said we must make sure this never happens again, but it should not have happened even once. MALDEF vows to do everything possible to protect the rights of farm workers so that Maria Isabel and her unborn child did not die in vain.

SI SE PUEDE!

Thank you.

This fire isn’t out

From advocate Fredi Avalos:

Human Rights Workers, Friends, and Colleagues,
 
I am writing this to express my feelings about another “fire” that was lit a nearly year ago. 
 
A few weeks ago the Mayor went on the Roger Hedgecock show to express his support for the San Diego Minute Men’s project to “clear out the canyons.”  (see The southern Poverty Law center site www.splc.org or www.minutemenunvarnished for more on the S.D. Minutemen).  These canyons have been the sites for unspeakable hate crimes committed against Mexican workers. But perhaps even more disturbing, is that the Mayor himself gave credence to the growing rhetoric of hate being spread by White Supremacist groups who are trying to blame the migrants for the San Diego fires. He said in response to Hedgecock’s accusation that the immigrants are the real fire hazard, “we can’t have the camps down there with the fire danger”. Instead of using this forum to quell the reactionary fear mongering by right wing radio hosts, he decided to join forces with them.
 
His decision to repeat a wrong he was publicly chastised for not even a year ago requires examination. As many of you know, last year, the Mayor looked a contingency of human rights workers, which included me, in the eye and said he would “never again” lend the legitimacy of his office to organized violence in our communities. This was after he had gone on the Rick Roberts’ show and gave a “wink and nod” to White Supremacist groups planning to “campout” in the canyons last fall. In the interview with Roberts, he said “a fire had been lit.”  Prophetic words indeed. Two months later after over 150 phone calls and emails, and a prayer vigil in front of his office, told us that he “was sorry” and that “it was a mistake he would never make again.”
 
I have been lied to by politicians before – but I must say-this is the first time one looked directly in my face and lied so up close and personally.
 
One can only conclude that after coming out so courageously, in support of gay rights, he needed to find another way to let his right wing contingency know that he was still “one of them.” Mexicans and Mexican Americans it seems are easily used as scapegoats for this vicious campaign of hate and mean spiritedness. A campaign he has now willing become the poster boy for-again. 
 
Of course, what is very transparent here is that if  Sanders is really looking for answers, he should look to decisions made in his own office. He, and San Diego taxpayers, have continually refused to compensate firefighters fairly for the work they do. And they have continued to turn a deaf ear to the pleas of city leaders, including the former fire chief, for more and better fire fighting equipment. The last fire chief himself resigned in frustration.
 
Please write or call his office to express your concern at 619-236-6330 his fax number is 619-236-6330. People, we have to let our elected officials know that hate radio is not an appropriate public form. In this climate of fear, we can no longer stay silent.
 
Fredi Avalos