Tag Archives: labor unions

May Day Redux: Part 2!

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The pictures and stories just keep rolling in from last Friday. Despite reports that this May Day fell short of expectations, I think that in the face of all of the swine flu hysteria and the overall rainy weather, there was a great turnout. Not to mention, those who did turn out did so in STYLE!

Support from the Labor Community

One of the best signs of the May Day events was the widespread representation from the labor community. Unions, like SEIU and Workers United showed up in solidarity for worker and immigrant rights. This support is especially important, in light of last month’s announcement by the two largest unions in the country, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, that they will support a comprehensive immigration reform effort this year.

Workers United took to the streets across the country, fighting for equal rights for all. From the Workers United site:

Margarito Diaz, (pictured) helped lead the mobilization and says:

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“As a union, we are a family, a family that fights for everyone to be treated fairly.  The May Day March to me was the symbol of our struggle as family, and the fighting spirit within ourselves to say we’ve had enough.  No human being should be treated as less than a human being, and our future — our kids — should not have to suffer by us getting rid of their parents.

I was humbled and fortunate to march with my fellow co-workers, many of whom — after working the night shift — marched for more than three miles, demanding fair labor laws for everyone, and for all brothers and sisters who are migrants to be treated with dignity and respect.”

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Thursday’s Hearing on Immigration is a Big Step Forward

Tomorrow Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will hold his first hearing as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees. The hearing is titled Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?”. The list of speakers is expansive – and promising.

The hearing will feature testimony from Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Dr. Joel Hunter of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and SEIU’s Eliseo Medina, to name a few.

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Is it me, or do these speakers resemble the broad-based coalition that is coming together to support immigration reform in 2009? We have Greenspan representing the economic and business interests, Hunter bringing the faith-based support to the table and Medina showing that the support of the labor unions is going strong.

Jackie from America’s Voice will be live-blogging the hearing, be sure to tune in at 2:00 pm and listen to what goes down. Check it out here.

The hearing is a sign that reform is really going to happen this year – this is a small step, but an extremely strong one. It shows that the momentum for reform is growing, and not just from pro-migrant advocates.

America’s Voice answers both questions posed in the hearing (“can it be done”? and “how”?):

It will be instructive to see how both parties behave during next week’s Senate Judiciary Hearing, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?””

With the White House recently renewing its pledge to move forward on immigration reform this year with the unified support of the nation’s largest labor coalitions, we might expect the answer to the first question to be, “Yes.”

To answer the question, “How?”

Tune into what the public- not the noisy Minuteman minority- really want. Weigh the economic benefits of legalizing twelve million underground workers and cracking down on bad-actor employers against the human and financial costs of deporting 12 million men, women, and children.

Most importantly, take the debate back from the extremists.

Not only is the hearing a great step forward, but the next day, on May 1st, hundreds of thousands of people will be taking it to the streets, showing the American public’s appetite for reform and their commitment to the issue. For more on the May Day marches, check out www.anewdayforimmigration.org.

Immigration and Unions

derechos-trabajadoresYesterday, the New York Times featured a great editorial on exactly why last week’s endorsement of Immigration Reform by the nation’s two largest labor unions makes sense. Lots of sense.

The very idea that unions would endorse legalizing illegal immigrants, as the country’s two big labor federations did this month, strikes some as absurd. Americans have a hard enough time competing with cheap foreign labor. Why undercut them within our own borders? Especially with millions of citizens losing their jobs?

I’m no stranger to these types of questions and arguments. I get plenty of folks here on the blog who shout that the approach I push will cost American citizens their jobs. However, its nice to have somebody like the New York Times back up my argument that enforcing workers’ rights across the board (by bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows) will help raise wages and working conditions for everyone. Which, in turn, helps our ailing economy.

The unions, at least, understand that there is a better way. They see immigration reform as an issue of worker empowerment. If undocumented immigrants undercut wages and job conditions for Americans — and many do, by tolerating low pay and abuse and bolstering an off-the-books system that robs law-abiding employers and taxpayers — it is because they cannot stand up for their rights.

“Workers don’t depress wages. Unscrupulous employers do,” said Terence O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. Unemployment in his industry is above 21 percent. Nearly two million construction workers are out of work. So what does Mr. O’Sullivan want? Reform that allows immigrants to legalize. “If we can free them so they can come out of the shadows, we can not only improve their lives, but all workers’ lives,” he said.

Immigration reform is an integral part of our economic recovery. Unions, who represent the TRUE American workers, understand that, the administration understands that and the American public understands that. Now, we must make sure Congress does too

Also, click here to share the editorial with your friends and colleagues. This is big news, we need to make sure folks know.

One Step Closer: Labor Unions Endorse Immigration Reform

The New York Times reported today that two of the most important Labor unions in the country, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, are endorsing President Obama’s push for comprehensive immigration reform. This is great news and immigrant rights advocates are excited that our friends in the Labor movement are joining the fight.change-to-win1

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“The labor movement will work together to make sure that the White House as well as Congress understand that we speak about immigration reform with one voice,” Mr. Sweeney (president of the AFL-CIO) said in a statement to The New York Times.

Folks in labor unions understand that in order to ensure that workers’ rights are enforced across the board, we must level the playing field and bring the millions of undocumented immigrant workers into the system and out of the shadows.

A.F.L.-C.I.O. officials said they agreed with Change to Win leaders that, with more than seven million unauthorized immigrants already working across the nation, legalizing their status would be the most effective way to protect labor standards for all workers.

“It shows how important the issue is to the representatives of American workers,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an advocate group.

This is great news and we applaud both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win for their brave move to support Immigration reform this year.

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.