Philadelphia Unions Stand Up for Justice for Immigrant Workers

by Paul Garver

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Union workers marched Wednesday in protest of Trump’s immigration policies. / Via 6ABC

Around 2,000 Philadelphia union workers gathered on Penn’s Landing on Wednesday 15th August to protest President Trump’s immigration policies, including the separation of asylum-seeking families and the denial of parole applications by immigrants awaiting case resolution.

Leaders and rank-and-file of both traditionally progressive unions and several building trades were present

Members of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers took part alongside union workers from the Philly chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees  and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.  According to IBEW spokesperson Frank Keel.  “There are probably a lot of our members who voted for Pres. Trump,” Keel said, “but we got a lot of buy-in here, and we are proud of our involvement.”

ICE officers in the Philadelphia branch arrest more undocumented non-criminal immigrants than in any other city.  Union protesters chose the city because the ICE office here has denied all parole applications from asylum seekers awaiting their case’s resolution.

Mayor Jim Kenney, who in late July announced the city would not renew its criminal records sharing agreement[2] with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, took the stage in support.

National leaders from UNITE HERE, which primarily represents hospitality workers, and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, led the rally.  IUPAT General President Ken Rigmaiden, said from the podium:

“We’re united,” President Rigmaiden said. “We will not let any child be terrorized — not by a bad contractor, not by an unethical company, and not by an administration that turns its back on what the Liberty Bell stands for!”

Rigmaiden also wrote an op-ed for the Phila. Inquirer, excerpted below;

Donald Trump claimed during his presidential campaign that reducing the number of immigrants would result in higher wages and greater opportunities for the rest of us Nothing can be farther from the truth.

However the facts haven’t stopped this administration from attacking immigrant workers and their families.  Immigration raids have increased by 42% since Trump took office – targeting immigrant workers regardless of whether they committed a crime.

If you’re an immigrant, you can be jailed just for showing up to work.  In workplaces across the country, corrupt employers are capitalizing on this fear, which drives down standards for everyone.  Fear mongering aimed at bullying workers has a chilling effect on all workers in the building trades, not just recent immigrants.

Now more than ever we need strong unions to fight back against the inhumane and ineffective immigration policies that create a climate of terror at the workplace, criminalize workers and endanger our future.

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Demand a Real NAFTA

Demand a Real NAFTA Replacement that Puts People & the Planet Ahead of Corporate Profits

Dear Duane :

Replace NAFTATrade officials are racing to complete their renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) within the coming weeks — and, not suprisingly, corporate lobby groups are pushing hard to ensure that NAFTA provisions that make it easier to outsource jobs, drive down wages and pollute the environment are maintained.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition demanding that any NAFTA replacement protects jobs at home, protects human rights abroad and raise wages and protects the environment continent-wide.

For decades, NAFTA’s intentionally weak and ineffective labor and environmental standards have enabled big corproations to outsource jobs to Mexico, where they can pay workers less than $2 an hour and dump toxins with impunity, and then ship products back for sale in the United States.

Roughly a million U.S. livelihoods have already been destroyed, with more jobs outsourced every week.  And the impact in Mexico has been even worse.  Not only have millions of livelihoods been destoryed there, but manufacting wages in Mexico are now 9% lower than they were before NAFTA was enacted.

NAFTA also grants corporations vast new privileges that make it easier to outsource jobs while empowering them to attack the environmental and health laws on which we all rely.

PLEASE ACT NOW: Tell Congress that NAFTA’s replacement must end the race-to-the-bottom job outsourcing.

Already, multinational corporations have grabbed $392 million in taxpayer money using NAFTA’s infamous Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) tribunals.

ISDS empowers corporations to sue governments before a panel of three corporate lawyers. These lawyers can order taxpayers to pay the corporations unlimited sums of money, including for the loss of their expected future profits.

The multinational corporations only need to convince the lawyers that a law protecting public health, a food safety regulation or a pro-environment court ruling violates their special NAFTA rights. The corporate lawyers’ decisions are not subject to appeal.

We cannot let this continue.

That’s why Citizens Trade Campaign’s powerful coalition of labor, environmental, family farm, faith and consumer organizations — along with many others — are joining our voices together with this demand:

Any NAFTA replacement deal must eliminate ISDS and end the job outsourcing and add strong labor and environmental standards with swift and certain enforcement to raise wages and protect the environment throughout North America.

Please add your name to the petition now.

Together, we can make a difference.

Many thanks,

Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director
CITIZENS TRADE CAMPAIGN

Online: citizenstrade.org
Twitter: @citizenstrade

Donate Online Now to Support Our Work

Support Fired Tobacco Farmworkers

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Two farmworkers were harassed, abused and later fired unjustly after speaking out about violations on Randy Blalock’s tobacco farm in North Carolina.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee [FLOC AFL-CIO] wants your support.

Send an email to their grower, his anti-union lawyer, and tobacco giants Reynolds and Alliance One to let them know that this type of worker abuse will not be allowed. Join us in demanding that the grower pay the workers thousands of dollars of stolen wages and compensate them for their unjust and retaliatory termination. We are also calling on tobacco companies to work with FLOC to guarantee freedom of association to all tobacco farmworkers to end the abuse in the tobacco fields.  Use link below:

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/two-tobacco-farmworkers-fired-for-speaking-out-tell-their-grower-blalock-and-the-tobacco-companies-that-we-want-justice-and-freedom-of-association?source=direct_link&

Abolish ICE Demonstration-Sacramento

Poster - Abolish Ice - DSA nationalLACLAA ( Labor Committee for Latin American Advancement)  organized a  dynamic demonstration today at the ICE offices in Sacramento to oppose the policies of jailing children and to slow down ICE.  Photos, videos, and sound recordings contributed to the scene.

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Desiree Rojas, Sacramento LACLA President pointed to large photos and said we have now seen children put into dog kennels.  We have seen ICE Separate families. And, we must resist.

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Desiree Rojas LCLAA

“We will fight for the children !  We will fight back against ICE !”

LACLAA , a part of the AFL-CIO, has been organized and active in Sacramento since 1982 and was particularly active in the anti NAFTA efforts and in organizing annual Cesar Chavez marches.

Local residents of the Japanese Citizens League,  who had themselves been incarcerated in 1942 in the Japanese Incarceration told of their stories.  And, how the incarceration haunted them for decades.

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Fabrizio Sasso

Fabrizio Sasso, Executive Secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council  described today’s effort as a part of the battle for Freedom and Democracy.

The video is here. https://www.facebook.com/sacramentolabor/

Duane Campbell (DSA) the Co Chair of the Immigrants’ Rights Committee of Democratic Socialists of America told the crowd of some 200 of the DSA campaign to Abolish ICE.

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Duane Campbell – DSA Immigration Committee

“This issue before us is one of human decency.  Under the Trump Administration ICE has developed a new policy of deliberately separating families of immigrants and refugees.  They are separating parents from their children as a form of collective punishment.    We have seen the photos. We know what is happening! Continue reading

Reject the Republican Repressive Immigration Bills

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Getty Images

Republicans in Congress have rejected a way to fix DACA and protect Dreamers. Now they are forcing a vote on two cruel bills that hold dreamers hostage to the Trump Administration’s deportation machine that separates kids from their families, deports hard working immigrants from the country, eliminates the diversity visa program, restricts family unification and prevents people fleeing violence and death from seeking asylum.

This is not who we are as a country.

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When we rip babies from their parents arms, build prison camps for children, raid workplaces and round up anyone who is not white, and threaten the 800,000 DACAmented Dreamers who have only ever known America with deportation we have to step up. This is a moral crisis and people like you and me must stand up to this.

Congress must know that these bills allowing the most inhumane parts of Donald Trump’s immigration policies can not pass. Tell your Representative that they must vote NO on these cruel bills.

When President Trump needlessly ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—a temporary fix to help individuals who came to this country as young immigrants—it became Congress’ responsibility to solve the problem. At every turn, Congress has failed miserably to come up with a solution that protects Dreamers from deportation. And now, House Republican leadership has blocked a fix that has overwhelming public support and a majority of the members of the House want to vote on.

Continue reading

Pittsburgh Workers Oppose Theft of Wages from Immigrant Roofers

 

by Mike Elk

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O’HARA, PENNSYLVANIA  – Popping out of the luscious greenery along the banks of the Allegheny River emerges the head of a giant 15-foot tall brown rat in a red tank sitting on top of a 4-foot high chunk of cheese.

“For us, the rat represents Stapleton Homes,” says Guillermo Perez, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). “The rat represents a business model that exploits workers.”
The workers here have gathered to protest Stapleton Homes, owners of the Chapel Harbor luxury condos on the banks of the Allegheny, only 15 minutes from the heart of booming Downtown Pittsburgh.

Last summer, a family team of five roofers from Guatemala spent ten days in 100-degree heat roofing the condos as they were preparing to go on the market. When the team completed the job, the immigrant workers building the project were never paid the $5,000 they were owed.

“It’s just wrong,” says 27-year-old Guatemalan immigrant “Gladys” as her young toddler runs around playing in the grass. “We have kids, I have family. I have more family in Guatemala…It’s not fair that we didn’t get paid.”

On Saturday, the Latino workers, members of organized labor and concerned community members gathered near the entrance of Chapel Harbor to protest what they see as wage theft.
“We love our community along the Allegheny, but the one thing we don’t love is taking from workers,” says Chapel Harbor homeowner Kevan Yenerall, whose wife is an immigrant from Thailand.
“[The workers] need to know that the people who live in Chapel Harbor are wonderful people, they work in the neighborhood, they pay taxes in the neighborhood, they aren’t in favor of what’s happening here,” says Yarnell. “My neighbors are wonderful folks, we love our homes, but this is awful.”

Stapleton Homes did not return a request for comment about the incident.

The story of Gladys and her crew is one that’s becoming increasingly common as Latino immigrants show up to take advantage of the massive building boom set off by Pittsburgh’s tech and natural gas boom.

Building contractors and construction unions in the area are struggling to find new workers.  And contractors regularly approach Latino labor leaders, desperately seeking new workers to fill these jobs.

Many immigrants say they prefer construction work to other types of work available to them.

“I used to work in the restaurant industry, I didn’t like it, and so I decided to try this,” says Gladys. “There is more independence.”

However, Latino workers in Pittsburgh often experience wage theft and are chronically underpaid compared to their unionized counterparts. Gladys says members of her crew on average make only $800 a week while working 12-15 hour days often in the heat on top of roofs.

Now, the areas’ unions are trying hard to organize workers regardless of immigration status and documentation.

“If we don’t step up and keep the pressure on [these contractors], they are just going to keep doing it,” says Joseph Hughes, a union representative with Painters’ Union District Council 57.

“I see this every day, thousands of contractors around the state of Pennsylvania do this everyday. This isn’t an isolated problem” Hughes tells the crowd.
Among the crowd, that day on the side of the highway in O’Hara Township, Gladys and her crew of a half-dozen roofers were some of the few Latino faces in the crowd of 50.
As a result of the economic downturn in Pittsburgh in the 1980s and 90s, which saw half the population of Pittsburgh leave, there was never as large of an influx of Latinos as in other areas of the country. In Pittsburgh, Latinos make up only 1.7 percent, while 17.6 percent of the U.S. population is Latino.
The crowd of supporters at the protest was mainly white, but numerous speakers in the crowd said they feel a sense of solidarity as their parents and grandparents worked similar jobs when they came to Pittsburgh from Southern and Eastern Europe in the early 1920s.
“This is such an important issue because it hits home to me. Both of my parents were immigrants that came [from Italy] after World War Two and they meet learning English at Allderdice High School,” says Anita Prizio, a 54-year-old DSA member who was recently elected to County Council to represent the region around Chapel Harbor.”
“My parents built the house that I still live in and they also created a company [that I run], but the one thing they told me and I learned this is that to be a good business owner, you have to be an ethical business owner, you have to have integrity and you have to pay your workers,” says Prizio. “There were times that it was hard for my parents to make payroll, but the first thing they did was to pay the workers before they actually paid themselves.”

“I stand in solidarity with Gladys and her workers because it’s the right thing to do and business should do the right thing,” says Prizio.

The campaign marks the beginning of new efforts by the area’s construction unions and community groups to combat the growing trend of wage theft facing workers. Recently, the Painters Union even donated a new sign to Casa San Jose, a Latino Resource and Welcome Center founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph in the growing Latino community of Beechview.

Unlike other cities with large Latino populations, Pittsburgh currently doesn’t have a workers’ center for non-union workers, where low wage workers win claims against employers that fail to pay them on time.

While groups are pushing for the establishment of a worker center, the task has fallen to an ad hoc coalition of activists associated with the LCLAA, building trade unions, area labor lawyers and the Thomas Merton Center community group. Gladys says support from these groups has been uplifting as a new member of the Pittsburgh community.

“I feel very welcomed by the community,” says Gladys. “We appreciate the support.”

The embrace by organized labor is part of a larger shift occurring nationally as building trade unions begin to embrace immigrant labor as opposed to keeping them off out of workplaces.

While activists associated with the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement say they would like to see unions and other groups step up to fund a workers’ center, they say that the protests have been a learning experience for the Pittsburgh community.

As the protest ends, Perez takes the microphone and taught the yinzer crowd a few words of Spanish.

“El pueblo que lucha, triunfa.”

When we fight, we win.

Reposted from the Payday Report. 

Poor People’s Campaign Defends Workers’ Rights – Sacramento

 

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by Duane Campbell

Hundreds of tenants, low-wage workers, clergy, union members and community activists descended upon the California state capitol today in a show of collective power to demand that state lawmakers take action to address the state’s homelessness crisis and to combat the systemic racism and poverty in our communities.

Working families traveled from San Diego, Los Angeles, Salinas, and the Bay Area to join in this fifth successive week of nonviolent direct action.

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California DSA Members at the Poor People’s Campaign  June 11, 2018

Speakers and participants included union workers protesting the attack on workers rights and their unions.   Anti-worker attacks – like Janus V AFSCME –  would create so called ‘Right to Work’ status for government workers in California and around the nation.  See demands below.

“ The greedy rich and the corporations backing Janus are coming after us because they know about our power in numbers, and they know what we can accomplish when we stand together,” said David Dunbar a SEIU Local 721 member from Los Angeles.

As the rally concluded, hundreds entered the capitol building to take their message directly to the lawmakers and to bear witness to their crisis when communities are torn apart by homelessness, poverty wages, systemic racism, and corporate greed.

Today’s event was one of thirty in state capitols across the nation and in Washington D.C.  This is the fifth week of the campaign.  The protests across the nation are organized to reignite the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 started by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and many others to challenge racism poverty and militarism.

Demands: Protect Workers, Their Families and the Right To Organize

The expectation of finding one good job and keeping it for a lifetime has been replaced by the need to jump from job to job, without secure benefits or steady income. Workers are increasingly bearing all the economic risk of corporate losses, economic downturn and unemployment. Jobs are not only outsourced, but they are also automated away. Low wages are the norm. Continue reading