Demands for Immigration Reform Produce Nonviolent Direct Action at Capitols

 by Duane Campbell

AFL-CIO Executive VP Tefere Gebre

AFL-CIO Executive VP Tefere Gebre

October 8, thousands of people from across the country  gathered  in the nation’s capital to demand the House Republican leadership pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. After the rally at the National Mall and march to the U.S. Capitol, two hundred of the attendees – national and local community and labor leaders, impacted immigrants, civil rights and faith leaders, and Members of Congress,  follow the event at the steps of the U.S. Capitol with nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at underscoring the urgent need to vote and pass fair immigration reform this year. Speakers at the rally include Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), civil rights leader Julian Bond, AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten. Other Members of Congress, national and local community, faith, and labor leaders will be standing on stage during key moments before the march begins.

Some of the national and local leaders participating in civil disobedience  include Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, Bruce Goldstein, Executive Director of Farmworker Justice Fund, Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action, Bernard Lunzer, Vice-President of the Communication Workers of America, Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of the CARECEN DC office, D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE, Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, John Stocks, Executive Director of the National Education Association, Maria Elena Durazo, President of the LA County Federation of Labor,  New Haven Alderman Delphine Clyburn, Joslyn Williams, President of the DC Central Labor Council, Jaime Contreras, Vice-President of SEIU 32BJ, Giev Aaron Kashkooli, Vice-President of the United Farmworkers, Terry Cavanagh, Executive Director of SEIU MD/DC State Council, Javier Valdes, Co-Director of Make the Road New York, Lawrence Benito, Executive Director of Illinois Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. For more on the Washington events go to

These arrests follow the arrests of Women Activists for immigration on Sept.13, and union activists on Aug. 10.

ImageIn Sacramento the California Republican Party headquarters across the street from the State Capitol was the site of a demonstration by Unite/Here and  SEIU members as well as community activists.  The Republican party was confronted with a message of,  “ We will remember your candidates in  November.” Continue reading

What Real Immigration Reform Would Look Like

Clue:  It’s Not a New Guest Worker Program

By David Bacon


Oralia Maceda asks her question at the Fresno meeting.

Oralia Maceda, an immigrant mother from Oaxaca, asked the obvious last weekend in Fresno.  At a meeting, talking about the Senate immigration reform bill, she wanted to know why Senators would spend almost $50 billion on more border walls, yet show no interest in why people leave home to cross them.

This Congressional blindness will get worse as immigration reform moves to the House.  It condemns U.S. immigration policy to a kind of punitive venality, making rational political decisions virtually impossible.  Yet alternatives are often proposed by migrant communities themselves, and reflect a better understanding of global economics and human rights.

Rufino Dominguez, who now works for the Oaxacan state government, describes what Maceda knows from experience: “NAFTA forced the price of corn so low it’s not economically possible to plant a crop anymore.  We come to the U.S. to work because there’s no alternative.”  The reason for the fall in prices, according to Timothy Wise of the Global Development and Environment Institute, is that corn imports to Mexico from the U.S. rose from 2,014,000 to 10,330,000 tons from 1992 to 2008.  Continue reading

Coalition Group Calls for an End to Abuse in International Labor Recruitment Process

 by Charlie Fanning

AmericanDreamforSaleTemporary worker programs in the United States are often presented as a “win-win” process, by which employers and foreign workers come together to both fill industry shortages and meet the needs of immigrant workers on a seasonal basis. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are recruited from abroad to work on a vast array of temporary visas, in a wide range of industries, from low-wage jobs in agriculture and landscaping, to higher-wage jobs in technology, nursing and teaching. Yet, few discuss how these workers come to the United States and under what terms. Regardless of their visa, internationally recruited workers face disturbingly common patterns of abuse, including fraud, discrimination, economic coercion, blacklisting and, in some cases, forced labor, debt bondage and human trafficking.

The International Labor Recruitment Working Group (ILRWG), a diverse coalition that includes the AFL-CIO, AFT, the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante Inc. (CDM), Farmworker Justice, Global Workers Justice Alliance, National Guestworker Alliance, Southern Poverty Law Center and other international and national organizations, met on February 5 to launch a report highlighting abuses experienced by internationally recruited workers. Directly before the House Judiciary Committee’s first immigration hearing and fresh on the heels of President Obama’s proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, the group called for lawmakers to implement meaningful regulation of recruitment practices as part of a legislative package.

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Immigration Reform Must Include Workers’ Rights

by Amy B. Dean

Amy B. Dean

Amy B. Dean

At this moment, various plans to reform America’s broken immigration system are working their way through Congressional debate. On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers unveiled a plan that includes what they call a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Last Friday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with President Obama to discuss the issue, and this caucus’ input will influential in shaping any final legislation.

In the current political climate, immigration reform is broadly popular, with both parties eager to win over the Hispanic electorate in 2014 and 2016. But that doesn’t mean that a bipartisan effort will pass a good law — especially if long-time opponents of immigration reform are only cynically vying for votes. We have every reason to doubt the sincerity of conservatives such as Senator Marco Rubio, who is leading the charge from the Republican side of the aisle with an eye on his own bid for president.

For the Democrats, the challenge will be to avoid simply jumping at the first deal offered by newly converted conservatives. Instead, for the first time in decades, promoters of reform have the opportunity to hold America to its promise of being a land of liberty and justice for all.

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Increased Reliance on “Guest Worker” Programs

By David Bacon
Americas Program

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a three-part series on migrant rights by journalist and immigration activist David Bacon. This article is taken from the report “Displaced, Unequal and Criminalized – Fighting for the Rights of Migrants in the United States” that examines the origins of the current migratory labor phenomenon, the mechanisms that maintain it, and proposals for a more equitable system. The Americas Program is proud to publish this series in collaboration with the author. Excerpts.

 Over the last 25 years, guest worker programs have increasingly become a vehicle for channeling the migration that has stemmed from free market reforms. Increasing numbers of guest workers are recruited each year for labor in the U.S. from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean under the H1-B, H2-A and H2-B programs. Recruiters promise high wages and charge thousands of dollars for visas, fees and transportation. By the time they leave home, the debts of guest workers are crushing.

..In 2006 Santiago Rafael Cruz, an organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, was murdered when the union tried to set up an office in Mexico to end the corruption and abuse by guest worker contractors. Continue reading

End Human Rights Abuses in Tobacco Fields

While concern about tobacco use is often in the news, concern about tobacco farmworkers is not.  Yet sub-minimum wages, corrupt labor contractors, decrepit housing , and serious health risks, including that of death by heat stroke, are common for tobacco farm workers in North Carolina and the South. This is a tragedy and moral disgrace hidden from the eyes of most Americans. At the top of this exploitative labor system sit some of the world’s largest and most powerful tobacco companies, such as Reynolds American. 

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC), which represents thousands of farmworkers in the Midwest and the Southeast, has sought to begin a dialogue with Reynolds American to end the human rights abuses in their supply chain.  But the company has refused to even meet with them.

Daniel M. Delen became the new CEO and President of Reynolds on 1st March. To tell Mr. Delen to work with FLOC to end human rights abuses in his company’s supply chain sign this petition.

Students demonstrate for Dream Act: Sacramento

Sacramento Dream Act Demonstration

Students and members of SEIU 1877 demonstrated on Dec. 2, 2010 at the Sacramento Capitol building.

The goal of this event was to bring to light the thousands of students caught in the horrible, perpetual limbo of being educated, bright and ready to work, but denied the chance to because of their illegal immigration status.

The DREAM Act would give more than 100,000 young immigrants, brought to the United States before the age of 16, a chance to become legal residents if they attend college or join the military. 

Many of us have known or do know Californians that have had to live in hiding. The DREAM Act will prevent young people from being punished for the actions of their parents, giving them the opportunity to obtain legal status by pursuing higher education or by serving in the American armed forces for the country they grew up in and consider their own.

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UFCW Canada Fights for Migrant Workers’ Rights

by Paul Garver

On the occasion of Labor Day, which is celebrated today both in the USA and in Canada, I have reports on two exemplary organizing efforts in Canada from which American union activists might learn.
The Canadian branch of the United Food & Commericial Workers Union (UFCW Canada) has committed itself to a sustained effort to improve conditions for migrant agricultural workers in Canada. Every year Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program imports tens of thousands of agricultural laborers from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South Asia. UFCW Canada national president Wayne Hanley describes the TFW as “the federal government’s Exploitation Express that delivers migrant workers to Canada as a vulnerable and disposable work force. The collusion between the farm lobby and the governments is not only appalling, but an assault on the fights and safety of precarious workers who are fired and shipped out if they voice any concerns.”
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Immigration law hurts working people

SEIU Local 87 marching for justice for janitor...
Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr


By Teresa Mina, as told to David Bacon. New America Media, 7/24/10

Teresa Mina was a San Francisco janitor, member of Service Employees Union Local 87, when she was fired because the company said she didn’t have legal immigration documents.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement told her employer to fire 463 workers because they lack legal immigration status.  She told her story to David Bacon the day before she returned to Mexico.

I come from Tierra Blanca, a very poor town in Veracruz.  After my children’s father abandoned us, I decided to come to the U.S.   There’s just no money to survive.  We couldn’t continue to live that way.

We all felt horrible when I decided to leave.  My three kids, my mom, and two sisters are still living at home in Veracruz.  The only one supporting them now is me.

My kids’ suffering isn’t so much about money.  I’ve been able to send enough to pay the bills.  What they lack is love.  They don’t have a father; they just have me.  My mother cares for them, but it’s not the same.  They always ask me to come back.  They say maybe we’ll be poor, but we’ll be together.

I haven’t been able to go back to see them for six years, because I don’t have any papers to come back to the U.S. afterwards.  To cross now is very hard and expensive. Continue reading

Implications of the SEIU/UniteHere Settlement

by Randy Shaw

The July 26 settlement between UNITE HERE and SEIU ended a divisive conflict that badly hurt the labor movement. While the agreement paves the way for closer cooperation around immigrant rights and November’s elections, the once close relationship between SEIU and UNITE HERE is unlikely to be restored anytime soon, if ever. Ultimately, the deal reminds the entire labor movement that grassroots and worker power, not high-priced consultants, robocalls and mailers, is the key to success. The SEIU-UNITE HERE conflict also shows the peril of veteran labor leaders quietly deferring to destructive decisions by top union officials, a lesson that was supposed to have been learned from activists’ experience with Cesar Chavez and the UFW in the 1970’s.

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