ICE Helps Unscrupulous Employer Shaft Injured Worker

by Paul Garver

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Rosa Benitez with her 2 year old son missing her partner and his father Jose Flores

/After working three decades as a union organizer in the USA and assisting unions to organize in other countries, I thought that nothing ruthless and callous employers in collusion with corrupt governments could shock me anymore.

I was wrong.   This story makes my stomach churn and my blood boil.   It appeared on WBUR, the PBS news outlet in Boston, and shared with me by the Metrowest Worker Center in Framingham, MA.   Thanks to WBUR for its extensive and ongoing news coverage on issues relating to immigration, I quote its report in full here:

“Thirty-seven-year-old Jose Flores and his longtime partner, Rosa Benitez, have been living in Massachusetts for almost seven years. The Honduran nationals both entered the United States by illegally crossing the Southern border.

Benitez, 40 and with tired eyes, says she and Flores had to leave Honduras because of the violence.

‘I Came Here To Fight For My Family’

“Like all of the immigrants arriving from other countries,” she said in Spanish, “I came here to fight for my family. That’s why I’m here. Honduras is terrorized by gangs. I can’t live there. My dad was killed by the gangs. They threatened him and told him to pay a fee, but he didn’t pay it.”

The couple has five children together, three of whom are U.S.-born citizens. The oldest is 17 and the youngest is 2 years old. Benitez says since Flores was arrested by federal immigration agents last week, all of the children are scared and asking when their dad is coming home.

The family has had no income for two months. Flores, the sole provider, hasn’t been able to work since the end of March when he fell off a ladder at a job site, breaking his femur bone in his leg and undergoing several subsequent surgeries. After consulting with attorneys, and even though he’s living here illegally, Flores sought compensation from the Boston-based construction company he was working for.

Stacie Sobosik is a workers’ compensation attorney who’s advising Flores, and she says he’s within his rights. “Under case law in Massachusetts, undocumented workers are eligible for the same benefits as any other worker injured in the state,” she said.

Sobosik says she works with plenty of clients who are in the country without documentation and often they’re hesitant to report workplace accidents. The fear is that doing so will result in retaliation from employers in the form of a call to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“And we’ve always been able to tell clients,” Sobosik said, “ICE has better things to do, bigger fish to fry, than to come after an injured worker because their boss has reported them.”

But that’s exactly what Sobosik believes happened to Flores.

Fears Bosses Could Retaliate Against Some Immigrant Workers

Sobosik says she could not have expected what would take place when Flores’ boss offered some cash to help the family and arranged a meeting.

“The employer told this worker where to be, at exactly what time, and immigration was waiting,” Sobosik explained.

Lawyers for Flores say it’s still unclear whether the employer — who, it turns out, had no workers’ comp coverage on the day of Flores’ accident — arranged the arrest that day.

The company, Tara Construction, has declined to comment.

“… Now we have this added fear that, could an employer … use someone’s immigration situation against them?”

Christina Corbaci, an immigration lawyer

Because Flores has orders to be deported back to Honduras, ICE agents had the authority to take him into custody. But the concern for Flores’ immigration attorney, Christina Corbaci, is that this could signal another new enforcement approach by ICE under President Trump.

“Before, I wouldn’t have really had a concern telling someone, ‘Yes, you should go ahead to report something like this and assert your rights,’ ” Corbaci said. “But now we have this added fear that, could an employer in this kind of case just, you know, use someone’s immigration situation against them?”

In an emailed statement, an ICE spokesman said he wouldn’t comment on specific work methods for security reasons. He did say, however, that ICE receives investigative leads and tips from a variety of sources, and through many means and methods.

Flores remains in custody at the Suffolk County House of Corrections. As for the workers’ comp claim, Sobosik, the attorney, says the case is active.

“He’s clearly going to be disabled for quite awhile into the future, his doctors have said at least six months,” she said. “If he stays in the States that long, he should still be eligible, but what happens if he’s deported? That’s a big question mark. We don’t know.”

And his partner doesn’t know what to expect either.

Sitting at the kitchen table with her 2-year-old son playing in the background, Benitez says despite the hardships, she has no regrets about coming to the U.S.

That’s because, she said in Spanish, “This is a country of opportunity … where the voice of one person can be heard.”

The Metrowest Worker Center is an advocate for Jose Fores and for many hundreds of undocumented workers in the Boston area who are routinely cheated of their wages, subjected to dangerous working conditions, and threatened by the criminally negligent employers and sub-contractors who hire them.  With limited resources, this Worker Center, like unions and worker centers around the globe, do what they humanly can. It is raising funds to support Jose Flores, Rosa Benitez and their children at

http://www.mwc-casa.org/home-and-news/injured-worker-detained-by-ice-in-retaliation

UPDATE   5/23 from Diego Low of the Metrowest Worker Center:

The injured worker detained by ICE at the instigation of his employer, Tara Construction, is back with his family.    He was released around noon today under a temporary stay of deportation while investigations proceed regarding his employers retaliation for reporting the injury and pursuing workers comp.  We will continue to pursue sanctions against the employer and to stabilize the status of the worker and his family.  The worker is likely to need at least six months to heal from the workplace injury.   We hope to get the crowd funding site updated so as to raise funds for the substantial legal fees the family is facing.

North American IUF Affiliates rally at Mondelez shareholder meeting

IUF Global Mondelez Union Network

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On May 17, members from North American IUF affiliates BCTGM and UFCW rallied in advance of the Mondelez shareholder meeting in Lincolnshire, Illinois to show their commitment to defending quality employment at the company they have helped to build. Over 18 labour organizations were present to express their support; Letters of solidarity from IUF affiliates were also read out to rally participants.

A smaller group of IUF affiliates who attended the shareholder meeting spoke out against the destructive direction in which management has taken the company, urging a more long-term and sustainable strategy for the future. This group supported the shareholder resolution submitted by the national trade union center AFL-CIO calling for measures to mitigate the impact of any future plant closures, an experience all too familiar to Mondelez workers in the US and around the world.

Mondelez recently moved over 500 production jobs from the Nabisco factory in Chicago to Salinas,Mexico.
See more photos of the event here.

Immigration Blame Game

We at Talking Union received the post below by Buzz Malone titled Immigration Blame Game.  It was originally posted on his blog. He is a union activist in Iowa.

We encourage dialogue among union activists on critical issues.  We do not fear open discussion of difficult issues.

A response to Immigration Blame Game was posted on Working In These Times by labor organizer, writer, and photographer David Bacon. Bacon corrects some important points in labor history and argues against the position urged by Buzz Malone.

Malone’s piece.

Immigration Blame Game, by Buzz Malone.

“All of us assign blame in our own best interest — blame is relative. So one of the most important functions in society is controlling the blame pattern. Why is it that [the working class] assign blame downward to some welfare chiselers down at the bottom, “Tryin’ to get a little somethin’ for nothin'” — and they never assign blame upward to a handful of big-time chiselers who get a whole lot of something for doing nothing at all?”       -Utah Phillips-

 

Illegal immigration. It’s apparently one of the key issues that moved the working class electorate to vote for Trump, so I feel compelled to offer my two cents on the subject based on my own thoughts and experiences.

It’s not a terribly well kept secret to anyone who has ever travelled across Iowa and passed the heavy noxious air of a hog confinement along the interstate, that Iowa has more hogs than people. It’s always been that way. The Midwest I call home has long been a bastion of all things agricultural; of corn and beans and hogs and cattle, and all of the industries that spawn from them. Continue reading

Labor, Socialists and Immigration

Evans_Signage_HumanoIlegal.pngDr. Duane E. Campbell, April 19, 2017

In spite of the economic boon for the wealthy, working people in the U.S. have yet to receive a significant improvement in their standard of living for over 30 years. At the same time, democratic forces are once again confronted with anti immigrant campaigns- this time fostered and promoted by a President of the U.S.

As socialists, we stand with and among the US working class in opposition to the rule of the transnational corporations and their exploitation of the economy and their despoliation of our lives, our society and our environment.

We are currently experiencing a major restructuring of the global economy directed by the transnational corporations to produce profits for their corporate owners. The impoverishment of the vast majority of people in pursuit of profits for a small minority has pushed millions to migrant in search of food, jobs, and security. Global capitalism produces global migration. Along with wars NAFTA and other “Free Trade” deals each produce a new waves of migration.

Socialists support the rights of working people to organize, to form unions, and to protect their rights and to advance their interests. Unions have always been an important part of how socialists seek to make our economic justice principles come alive. Working people- gathered together and exploited in the capitalist workplace-are well positioned to fight their common exploitation. Continue reading

Achieving Greater Equality in the National and Global Economy

Meeting of the XXV Congress of the Socialist International Cartagena, Colombia, 2-3-4 March 2017

ACHIEVING GREATER EQUALITY IN THE NATIONAL AND GLOBAL ECONOMY

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

That sentence, taken from America’s Declaration of Independence in 1776, was followed 13 years later by these words in Article 1 of France’s revolutionary Declaration of the Rights of Man:

“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.”

In those two sentences–authored on two different continents in two different languages for two different peoples nearly 250 years ago–lie the origins of what we today, on all continents, simply assume are the natural rights we ought to enjoy.

Yet those rights are not rights all of us actually enjoy—even though they are what we at Socialist International, throughout our shared political history, have always fought for—as citizens of our nations and citizens of the world.

In the US and Western Europe, Keynesianism and an activist progressive state came under relentless assault. Where nominally “left” governments survived, they found themselves constrained by the forces of neoliberalism. Working-class unions—long a backbone of progressive politics—began a sharp decline in membership, while corporations and finance gained enormous new influence, prestige, and wealth. Politicians across the spectrum embraced lower taxes, less regulation, more global trade and output, and more authority and influence for business. “Government,” in Reagan’s famous formulation, “isn’t the solution; it’s the problem.” The era of neoliberal globalization was underway.

Here, in Cartagena, Colombia, representing the 153 member parties of Socialist International, we reaffirm our deep and unshakable belief in human equality and its power as the foundation, measure, and goal of all just societies, and in the irreducible right of all men and women equally to enjoy the fruits of their lives, their liberties, and their pursuit of happiness.

In this moment of insurgent right-wing neo-populism, we do not mean to stop with that affirmation. Instead we are gathered here first to challenge those reactionary forces and ideologies that still prevent billions of human beings from living lives of true equality and freedom. We next will articulate strategies and politics that will lead towards a better and more egalitarian future. Finally, we will express our fierce determination to confront those reactionary forces, again and again, until they are defeated, and universal rights are equally assured in every corner of this tiny planet.

We say this knowing that right-wing neo-populists, with alarming frequency, have begun assaulting democracies for their openness and tolerance—in the name of a frightened, inward-looking nationalism that pits us against one another, the rural against the urban, the newly-affluent against the “new poor”, college graduates against the high school leavers, “real” citizens against our new—and dangerously “different”—refugees and fellow citizens. In neo-populist fantasies, a dark, conspiratorial elite, on behalf of a satanic secular globalism, is threatening our traditional values, communities, and ways of life.

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Continue reading

Fight for Nabisco Jobs in Chicago!

BCTGM International Union

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The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers Workers International Union ( BCTGM) has been deeply committed to fighting the exploitation of workers by Mondelēz International. Our CHECK THE LABEL education campaign and the AFL-CIO-endorsed boycott of Mondelēz/Nabisco Products made in Mexico has been very successful. However, the injustice of the workers at Mondelēz’ Chicago Nabisco bakery remains.

March 23rd marks one year since the company began laying off workers from the Chicago bakery and sending their jobs to Salinas, Mexico. Now, workers toiling under exploitative  conditions in Mexico produce the formerly made-in-the U.S. Nabisco products that are shipped back to American consumers.

On March 23rd we will mark the Chicago layoffs with a DIGITAL DAY OF ACTIONthat will feature an exciting new tool to help spread a message of solidarity and tell Mondelēz that we will not give up this fight against a destructive corporate philosophy that destroys jobs and communities.

To RSVP click on this DIGITAL DAY OF ACTION that will take place exclusively through our social media channels. We are asking that you save the date and share in the Facebook and Twitter actions on March 23rd.

Many thanks on behalf of the BCTGM International Union and the Nabisco 600 Campaign.
In solidarity,

Corrina Christensen, Director of Communications & Public Relations
Michelle Ellis, Director of New Media

P.S. In addition to the BCTGM International’s blog and social media sites, be sure to visit the Nabisco 600 blogFacebook and Twitter pages to stay connected!

 

Bangladesh: elements of a successful global worker solidarity campaign

kathmanduIndustriALL

A behind the scenes look at a successful campaign. Bringing about social change is difficult, and clicktivism – signing an online petition – is not enough. So how do you campaign and win?

The issue

Textile and garment workers in Bangladesh are joining unions and fighting for better conditions. In December 2016, thousands went on strike for a higher minimum wage. 1,600 workers were fired, 35 trade unionists were arrested, others went into hiding, and trade union offices were closed.

IndustriALL and our sister global union UNI launched a campaign to end the crackdown. Yesterday, we had confirmation that we had been successful: the last trade unionist was released from prison, and our union affiliates in Bangladesh have been recognized as negotiating partners by the government and the employers’ association, the BGMEA.

How did we do it?

1. We had a backstory

We spent years raising awareness of conditions in Bangladesh, and building relationships with people working to improve things. We could quickly launch the campaign with a simple message.

2. Mobilized our base

We contacted our affiliated unions across the world and asked them to send letters of protest to the Bangladeshi government. We coordinated a day of action that saw union-organized protests outside Bangladeshi embassies in Berlin, Geneva, London, Brussels, The Hague, Washington D.C., New York, Ottawa, Kathmandu, and Seoul.

3. LabourStart campaign

We launched a campaign on LabourStart, the online petition site for the labour movement. More than 10,000 trade unionists around the world sent messages of protest to the Bangladeshi government.

4. Activated our network

We have built strong relationships with partner NGOs. We contacted organizations like the Clean Clothes Campaign and Fashion Revolution, who supported our campaign and shared it with their networks.

5. Gave people something to do

We engaged people by using social media to tell the story of the workers who make our clothes. We used easily shareable content with lots of images.

We produced a simple poster demanding the release of the trade unionists, and made it available to download. We asked people to take selfies of themselves holding the poster, and share it on social media with our campaign hashtag #EveryDayCounts. Hundreds of people posted images, which helped spread the message further.

6. Used positive alternatives

Our opponents characterized trade union protests as criminal and violent. We countered this with a positive alternative: two of our affiliates signed collective agreements with Bangladeshi garment employers during the period of the crackdown, showing that positive industrial relations are possible.

7. Used global framework agreements

We have spent years building relationships with major fashion brands that source from Bangladesh. We have signed global framework agreements with H&M, Inditex (ZARA), Tschibo and Mizuno. These agreements contain strong language that requires brands to take responsibility for their supply chain, and include a commitment to support collective bargaining.

Consumer activism means more and more people now care how their clothes were made: to stay competitive, brands need to show they care too. Major brands could not afford to be associated with a labour crackdown in Bangladesh. As a result, they announced they would not attend the crucial industry trade fair, the Dhaka Apparel Summit.

This was the last straw for the factory owners.

8. Established ourselves as partners

Unions make deals. We will need to work with the government and the employers’ federation in future to create a successful garment industry that provides quality jobs.

We created a situation where it would be costly for the government and employers to continue the crackdown, and made it clear we were in a position to escalate the campaign. Then we gave them a way out.

Union representatives on the ground, the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, negotiated an agreement that saw the arrested trade unionists released. Commitments were made to offer dismissed workers their jobs back, and we established the precedent of the IBC being recognized as a partner for negotiations.

Conclusion

The two most important factor in our success were:

Spending time to build relationships and trust beforehand, so that a lot of people could be mobilized quickly.

Tackling the problem from different angles. With the Bangladeshi government receiving emails, letters and embassy protests, and brands refusing to attend the apparel summit, they felt pressure from all sides.

The campaign relied on relationships and networks. We played to our strengths (our networks), and targeted the employers’ weak points (reputational damage and the threat of lost business).