Labor activists protest visit of Mexican President

by James Park

Some 160 members of the United Steelworkers (USW), union staff and supporters from around Washington, D.C., today protested Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s visit to the nation’s capital and condemned his government’s repression of workers’ rights in Mexico.

The USW and the AFL-CIO have both denounced the Mexican government’s four-year long campaign to destroy the independent mineworkers’ union, Los Mineros.  Members of Los Mineros have been on strike since July 2007 at the Cananea mine in Northern Mexico over health and safety and other contract violations.

Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, told the crowd:

I am here to say that we in the labor movement fight equally for workers in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, in Mexico, and all across the globe. We will not let borders divide us and pit us against each other, and we’re serious when we say that an injury to one worker is an injury against all workers.

From the AFL-CIO blog.

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Union Reformers, Meet the Press

AUD (the Association for Union Democracy)  is bringing together four exceptional labor journalists for a discussion of unionism and union reform on May 25:

    Juan Gonzalez  (The Daily News, Democracy Now!)
    Tom Robbins  (The Village Voice)
    Mimi Rosenberg  (Building Bridges)
    Richard Steier  (The Chief Leader)

Location: Musicians Local 802 Club Room, 322 West 48th Street in Manhattan
May 25 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Speakers start at 7pm.    Come early to mingle with light refreshments and free drinks. Save by buying group tickets! Inquire about reduced price tickets (limited availability). Tickets: Single $50; Party of Four $180; Party of Five $200.

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Need to Respond to Right-Wing Populism is Theme of Detroit Douglas-Debs Dinner

Bill Fletcher, Jr. keynote speaker at 2010 Detroit Douglass-Debs dinner

Over 200 people attended the eleventh annual Frederick Douglass-Eugene V. Debs Dinner at historic UAW Local 600 in Dearborn on Saturday, May 8th. Local 600 was the home local of the hunger marchers of the 1930s and is adjacent to the site of the “Battle of the Overpass” which launched Walter Reuther into national prominence.

The Douglass-Debs Dinner is the annual fundraising event for Detroit Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). This year’s honorees were UAW Vice President James Settles, Jr. and Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO President Saundra Williams. The dinner co-chairs were UAW Region 1A Director Rory Gamble and American Federation of Teachers-Michigan President David Hecker. In his acceptance speech, Settles promised that the new UAW leadership which is expected to be elected at their convention in June, would be more progressive in its political orientation.

Bill Fletcher, Jr., the Director of Field Services and Education for the American Federation of Government Employees and long time labor activist and writer, delivered the keynote address.

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Unions show how to build a boycott of Arizona

Randy Shaw

By Randy Shaw

In the past two weeks, the call for an economic boycott of Arizona has spread far beyond the political arena. In addition to labor and immigrant rights groups, it quickly won support from such unusual suspects as pop singers Shakira and Ricky Martin, the NBA’s “Los Phoenix Suns,” and the Major League Baseball Players Association. Polls show African-Americans are even more hostile than Latinos to the racist Arizona law, and conventions from multiple groups are already being switched out of state.

But boycotts typically start with a flurry of activity. Most then dissipate without building the boycott infrastructure necessary to achieve their original goal. For the Arizona boycott to succeed, activists must follow the lessons of the UFW grape and lettuce boycotts of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the South Africa divestment campaign of the 1970s and 1980’s, and the UNITE HERE “Hotel Rising Boycott” of 2006. And the timing is perfect for a “Boycott Summer,” which would boost immigrant rights activism both in Arizona and nationally.

“Boycott Summer”

The critical distinction between successful and failed boycotts is the creation of a boycott infrastructure. In other words, a campaign operation that continues after the media launch event ends, and that builds the boycott through continually harnessing and recruiting volunteers. Continue reading

Arizona immigration law undermines workers’ rights

Photo: © David Bacon

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says: The law is not only an affront to American values of fairness and respect for the U.S. Constitution—it “severely undermines workers’ rights.”

“Any employer faced with Latino workers’ complaints—in the form of a picket or a lawsuit—can simply call the police and have workers arrested under the guise of “reasonable suspicion.” The law’s chilling effect is all too clear.

The law requires a police officer to demand proof of immigration status when the officer has “reasonable suspicion” to believe the person is not authorized to be in the United States, regardless of whether he or she is suspected of a crime. The law puts Arizona’s entire Latino population—the great majority of whom are U.S. citizens or legal residents—at risk of arrest, “Trumka said.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Los Angeles City Council, Wednesday May 12, 2010, voted to ban most city travel to Arizona and future contracts with companies in that state.  Meanwhile groups in Arizona requested assistance. Continue reading

Hundreds of Union Janitors Fired Under Pressure from ICE

by David Bacon

(Photo: © David Bacon)

San Francisco, California – Federal immigration authorities have pressured one of San Francisco’s major building service companies, ABM, into firing hundreds of its own workers. Some 475 janitors have been told that unless they can show legal immigration status, they will lose their jobs in the near future.

ABM has been a union company for decades, and many of the workers have been there for years. “They’ve been working in the buildings downtown for 15, 20, some as many as 27 years,” said Olga Miranda, president of Service Employees Local 87. “They’ve built homes. They’ve provided for their families. They’ve sent their kids to college. They’re not new workers. They didn’t just get here a year ago.”

Nevertheless, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security has told ABM that they have flagged the personnel records of those workers. Weeks ago, ICE agents sifted through Social Security records and the I-9 immigration forms all workers have to fill out when they apply for jobs. They then told ABM that the company had to fire 475 workers who were accused of lacking legal immigration status.

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Economists letter supporting financial reform bill

The Political Economy Research Institute today released a letter from 17 economists addressing features of the current Senate financial reform bill which we feel appropriately address the root causes of the crisis, and those which need to be amended in order to protect our economy from future upheavals.  The AFL-CIO has correctly made financial reform a centerpiece of its economic program.  We believe that the views of theses progressive economists will be of special interest to our readers.–Talking Union

The New York Times recently reported that “some academics” assert that the Senate financial reform bill now under consideration is misguided, while others disagree. We strongly dispute the article’s central premise: that we don’t know enough about the causes of the crisis.

Many observers anticipated the calamitous effects of radical deregulation as it was occurring. Their warnings only rarely made it into the Times and other major newspapers. We and others warned that deregulation would lead to a fragile, highly-leveraged system of interconnected banks and shadow banks that lacked external checks either in the market or in the government.

That is why we are prepared to support an amended version of the financial reform bill under consideration now in the Senate. Contrary to the assertions in the article, the bill in the Senate, which currently has some effective features, can readily be amended to address key causes of the financial crisis. Here are some specifics:

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