Tag Archives: Worker’s Rights

May Day Redux: Pics, Videos and Stories from May 1st

dc-white-house2Friday was an aMAYzing day for me (see what I did there?). Even though I wasn’t in the streets marching with my compañeros, I was here in the office with a bird’s eye view of May Day marches across the country.

I watched as literally thousands of text messages poured in from folks, telling us why they were marching. You can check out some of these messages from my post on Friday. (I didn’t post all of them – but what you see on the post is pretty representative of the tone of the messages).

I received photos, stories, videos and excited phone calls from people on the ground from Los Angeles to New York. It was inspiring to see all of the momentum, energy and diversity of the crowds that gathered in cities everywhere. Even my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina hosted an event – which makes me enormously proud.

Even though I was live-blogging a few of the events, I have since received some great pictures, videos and stories from the day and wanted to share them with folks. But be sure check out my previous posts from Friday – Boston, Newark, NJNew York City; Chicago; Washington, DC and Charlotte, NC.

Keep reading for my May Day Redux!

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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.

FIRM Spotlight: Somos un Pueblo Unido Helps Pass Law Protecting Workers

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On March 6th, New Mexico’ governor Bill Richardson signed House Bill 489, which provides stronger protections for workers who file claims for unpaid wages and overtime and penalizes the employers who steal from them.

From our partners at Somos un Pueblo Unido:

Too many employers were getting away with stealing wages from New Mexico’s workers,” said Marcela Díaz, Director of Somos. “This law will make it easier for aggrieved workers to recuperate their wages, an important gain especially during these hard economic times.”

“This law not only benefits workers, but also levels the playing field between honest employers and dishonest ones who cut costs by stealing wages,” explained Brandt Milstein, a Santa Fe based labor attorney working with Somos on the bill.

During the last ten years, Somos has documented hundreds of wage theft abuses in the immigrant community. Last year alone, the Department of Workforce Solutions Labor Relations Division investigated over 2,400 wage claims from immigrant and non immigrant workers.

“The passage of this law sends a strong message to those employers who think they can take advantage of their workers,” said Rayos Burciaga, a housekeeper and Somos’ board member. “Now bad employers will think twice about cheating their employees out of their paycheck.”

Congratulations on this victory! This is yet another step towards helping to protect ALL workers and bringing immigrants out of the shadows. If we want our economy to work, it must work for everyone.

Update: Workers Continue to Fight Colibri

Three weeks ago I posted on the story of the abrupt closing of the Colibri Company in East Providence, Rhode Island. The company shut their doors without warning, laying off 280 employees and violating the Federal WARN act. The workers, in coordination with our partners at Fuerza Laboral, have filed a lawsuit against the company and turned out to protest soon after the closing.

Now the workers are turning their attention to Colibri’s parent company, Founders Equity. This past Friday 70 Colibri workers and Fuerza Laboral allies boarded a bus to NYC to hold Founders Equity accountable for shutting down Colibri with no notice. Protestors packed the lobby of Founders Equity, making their demands heard.

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Leadership at the company refused to meet with the workers, but their message was loud and clear: Founders Equity must be held responsible for violating the Federal WARN Act and as such, need to pay the workers 60 days pay and benefits, plus severance for failing to give notification.

Click here to send a message to Founders Equity asking for justice for the Colibri workers. Over 700 people have already sent their messages to the company.  It only takes a minute and it will make a difference!

New “no-match” Rule is Unwelcome

Last Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security released a final administrative rule regarding “no-match” letters. “No-match” letters are sent as a result of employers using the e-verify system to confirm that employees are eligilbe to work. If an employee’s social security number shows up with “no-match” a letter is sent to the employer.

The system has been widely criticized because of errors, inaccurate databases and the high probabilty of human mistakes that lead to loss of jobs for eligible workers. Now, during a time of intense economic crisis, the administration has taken more steps that endanger workers.

Ali Noorani from the National Immigration Forum has a great post on this new development:

Given our country’s rapidly unraveling economy, measures that further weaken businesses and threaten the economic security of our nation and of legitimate workers – native and immigrant worker alike – are bizarre.

The Administration was under no legal obligation to issue these regulations. In fact, the initial rules were contested in court.

Recent news reports and Congressional hearings have uncovered scandals in the immigration enforcement agency’s handling of its charges, pointing to the need for greater accountability. Instead, both Congress and the administration are loosening the reins—Congress, by giving ICE buckets and buckets of new taxpayer dollars, and now the administration, by finalizing a policy that will be hazardous to our economic health and by dragging the Social Security Administration into the fray.

It is clear the Bush administration is determined to continue tightening the screws on immigrants with new deportation-only initiatives, using its last few months in office to put regulations in place that will make it that much more difficult for a new administration to tackle immigration in a straightforward and reasonable way.

We need reasonable and sensible solutions, not more immigrant scapegoating that puts all Americans at risk!

Making the Immigration Argument in a New Economic Reality

Today at MigraMatters, Duke has a really thoughtful post about the incoming administration (whoever that may be) and how they could deal with immigration sensibly and comprehensively. It is a must-read.

Come January 20, 2009 a new administration will take office in perhaps the most precarious times the nation has faced since the 1930’s. Fighting two seemingly endless wars and with an economy on the verge of collapse, it is not an enviable position for any leader.

While both candidates have avoided the immigration debate like the plague during the campaign, it has moved down the list of important issues for voters, replaced by more pressing issues like healthcare or the economy. But in order to address these more pressing concerns in any meaningful way, the new government will need to tackle immigration once and for all.

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