The American Federation of Teachers provides Tools and Resources to help protect immigrant youth and their families in case of ICE, immigration, raids and enforcement efforts.
Prepared by the American Federation of Teachers.
Downloadable copy at aflcio.org/immigrationresources.
The American Federation of Teachers provides Tools and Resources to help protect immigrant youth and their families in case of ICE, immigration, raids and enforcement efforts.
by Paul Garver
When a repressive government wants to stifle organizing of migrant workers, it first strikes at those key leaders that are most effective in defending their rights..
Talking Union posts last year pointed out how the Chinese government was closing migrant workers centers and jailing their volunteers to stifle the wave of organizing among internal migrant workers in China.
Now it appears that migrant worker organizers in Vermont are being targeted by the new Trump administration policies through ICE.
Please respond as quickly as possible to this plea from Migrant Justice. To sign the petition to
Demand the release of detained human rights leaders Kike and Zully!
Go to Migrant Justice website at: http://migrantjustice.net/free-enrique-and-zully
Enrique “Kike” Balcazar, is a seasoned human rights leader in Vermont. Kike has lived in the state since 2011, when he became one of the many migrant dairy workers who make Vermont’s iconic dairy industry possible. He joined Migrant Justice in 2012, and soon became a spokesperson for his community, helping to lead the successful campaign for driver’s licenses for all Vermont residents. Kike has represented migrant workers at numerous national gatherings and coalitions, including the national Food Chain Workers Alliance, the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s recent convention, and in the Cosecha National Assembly in Boston. He has received an invitation to speak at Harvard University on April 1st. Kike leads the nationally-acclaimed Milk with Dignity campaign, and is part of the Vermont Attorney General’s task force on immigration. Kike’s infectious smile has cheered all of us who have had the fortune to interact with him.
Zully Palacios is an active member of Migrant Justice. Zully has participated in Migrant Justice Assemblies, learning about the reality that dairy farmworkers face in Vermont. She has been an active member since 2015, leading presentations, participating in activities of an immigrant women’s group, and designing know-your-rights information for the immigrant community. Zully participated in the campaign to secure a commitment from Ben & Jerry’s to join the Milk with Dignity Program. Her work for human rights includes joining meetings and trainings about the rights of workers and immigrants at the national level. In November, Zully went to New York for the Food Chain Workers Alliance’s Justice in the Food Chain Training, and in February, Zully participated in the Cosecha National Assembly in Boston.
On Friday, March 17, Enrique and Zully were leaving the Migrant Justice office in Burlington, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents targeted and arrested them. They are now in detention awaiting a court date. Neither has a criminal record. Their targeting appears to be political retaliation for their effective work in defending the human rights of workers and immigrants in this country.
Please sign to send the following letter to ICE Boston Field Office Director Todd Thurlow demanding the immediate release of Enrique and Zully, and calling for their deportation proceedings to be terminated!
Field Office Director Todd Thurlow
Boston Field Office
1000 District Ave
Burlington MA 01802
I am writing to ask you to please grant Prosecutorial Discretion to Jose Enrique Balcazar Sanchez (birth date: 03/09/1993) and Zully Palacios (05/14/1993).
Mr. Balcazar is a seasoned community leader and spokesperson. He has lived in Vermont since 2011, where he is known for his advocacy to improve living and working conditions for all farm workers, particularly migrant workers. Enrique has lived in Vergennes, Burlington and South Burlington, where he has developed strong ties with his neighbors and peers. Mr. Balcazar has shown tremendous solidarity and integrity by traveling the state to listen to farmworkers’ problems, then sharing them with government and corporate leaders to develop solutions. He currently sits on the Vermont Attorney General’s task force on immigration, leads the Milk with Dignity campaign, and led Migrant Justice’s successful campaign to win access to driver’s licenses for all Vermonters.
Ms. Palacios is not a threat to the public or to her community. Rather, she is an outstanding community activist and human rights defender. ICE should not be spending resources keeping Ms. Palacios detained. She is an important figure in her community and her continued detention does harm not only to Ms. Palacios but to the farmworker movement for human rights of which she is a respected and beloved member.
I trust that this request will be promptly considered and that Mr. Balcazar and Ms. Palacios will soon be released.
BCTGM International Union
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.
Corrina Christensen, Director of Communications & Public Relations
Michelle Ellis, Director of New Media
by Mike Elk
Workers and community members marched in Canton, Mississippi in support of Nissan workers’ right to unionize on Saturday. Photograph: Mike Elk for the Guardian
For a mile outside Canton Multipurpose Complex on Saturday, the road was backed up. Many cars sported bumper stickers, pro-Bernie and pro-union.
They came in school buses, hot rods, church vans and motorcycles, with license plates from Missouri, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois and Pennsylvania. A delegation of a dozen Nissan workers even came from Brazil, to support United Automobile Workers (UAW) activists who have faced illegal retaliation in a 13-year struggle to unionize the Japanese giant’s 5,000 workers in Mississippi.
“I feel their pain because we have been through the same thing with Mercedes,” said Kirk Garner of Vance of Alabama, who has been part of the decade-long UAW effort to unionize there.
Two weeks after the defeat of the Machinists Union at Boeing in South Carolina, an estimated 5,000 southern union activists gathered in Canton to lay the foundation of what they hope will be the large-scale community movements necessary to defeat anti-union forces nationwide – and in the White House.
Community support is proving essential for union drives, as companies use politicians and expensive media buys to counter such campaigns. In South Carolina, Boeing spent $485,000 on TV ads and politicians warned that a successful union drive would discourage other companies from moving to the region. In 2014, anti-union forces used a similar strategy to defeat a high-profile attempt to unionize Volkswagen in Chattanooga.
In Mississippi, as the UAW seeks a vote, Nissan has begun airing its own anti-union ads this week. The UAW claims that the company has told staff that if they unionize, the plant will move to Mexico. The company has denied the charge. In an email to the Guardian on Sunday, Nissan corporate communications manager Parul Bajaj said “the allegations made by the union are totally false” and accused the UAW of a “campaign to pressure the company into recognizing a union, even without employee support”.
High-profile company ad campaigns can turn communities against unions. Workers often face not just intimidation from their bosses but also peer pressure from friends and neighbors, who warn of harm to the local economy.
“I don’t think the pressure was as intense as it is now,” said GM worker John W Hill Jr, who was part of the first successful UAW effort to unionize workers in the south, 41 years ago at a GM plant in Monroe, Louisiana.
“In 1976, there wasn’t the harsh anti-union sentiment that is so prevalent over the country right now … We didn’t have all the politicians and everybody against us.
“I hope whenever the [Nissan] election is that they vote yes. But deep down inside, I think there is so much fear here and disconnect that I just don’t think [they will].”
Hill was interrupted by a Nissan worker with a toddler on his shoulders: “Nah man, we got this, we got this. We are gonna beat them.”
As they marched on the plant on an unusually warm March day, workers sang: “We are ready, We are ready, We are ready, Nissan.”
They have organized a community coalition, the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan, that includes #BlackLivesMatter activists, church groups, the Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The coalition is calling for a mobilization not seen in the south since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
More than 80% of Nissan’s workers in Canton are black. A win at Nissan could be a game-changer. On Saturday, they had a guest speaker.
“If we can win here at Nissan, you will give a tremendous bolt of confidence to working people all over this country” Bernie Sanders told a crowd of 5,000. “If you can stand up to a powerful multinational corporation in Canton, Mississippi, workers all over this country will say, ‘We can do it too.’”
Bernie Sanders speaks at the ‘March on Mississippi’ for workers’ rights in Canton. Photograph: Rogelio V. Solis/AP
Out of 43 of Nissan plants worldwide, 40 are unionized. The only plants that are one in Canton, Mississippi and two in Tennessee. Workers say the lack of a union makes a difference. Bajaj said Nissan “respects and supports” employees’ decisions about who represents them.
Many employees in Canton say they make less than $15 an hour, with starting wages for some at $13.46 an hour. Workers say they make $2 less each hour than those in Smyrna, where Nissan faces competition from unionized GM factories.
Bajaj countered that the company’s “hourly wages are significantly above the average central [Mississippi] production wage of $16.70 per hour”.
Many Canton workers also say they are forced to work for years as temporary employees and complain that they are denied vacation, only allowed to take time off in the last week of June and the first week of July – when the plant shuts down.
Without a union, they say, workers are often forced to work in unsafe conditions.
Since 2008, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) has citedCanton facilities six times. In February, Osha issued a citation for a failure to have proper safety lights indicated when machines were on and for not instructing workers to turn off machines before fixing them.
“I had to call [Osha] twice in the past month,” said Karen Camp, who works in the paint shop. “You couldn’t see 10ft in front of your face because of the ventilation problems. We know a union could help fix it.”
In his email, Bajaj said: “The safety and well-being of our employees is always our top priority. We dedicate extensive time and resources to safety programs and training at the plant.” The Canton plant, she added, “has a safety record that is significantly better than the national average for automotive plants” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Workers say Nissan has fought the union every step of the way. In 2015, the National Labor Relations Board charged that the company and its temporary employee agency provider, Kelly Services, violated workers’ rights, with one manager threatening to close the plant if it went union. Nissan has said it is defending against the charge.
Workers say the company routinely imposes one-on-one meetings, where they are questioned about their views on unionization and have their work histories reviewed. Some say those who support the union are routinely denied promotion. Others say pro-union workers have been unfairly let go.
In March 2014, a 43-year-old pro-UAW Nissan worker, Calvin Moore, who had worked in the plant since 2004, was fired. Many workers began to protest.
The actor Danny Glover, a supporter of Nissan workers who was also present at Saturday’s march, with NAACP president Cornell William Brooks, called a press conference to denounce the firing. Students from Jackson State and Tougaloo College engaged in civil disobedience at Nissan headquarters. Workers in Brazil organized protests in solidarity.
Three months later, Moore was hired again. The win put wind in the union’s sails.
“It bolstered people’s spirits,” Moore said on Saturday. “To be honest, people were happier for me than I was for myself.”
Moore said community support and events, such as the March on Mississippi, were key to winning support among coworkers. “We have had a lot of non-union workers who have changed their mind about the UAW,” he said. “Events like this should help us get more support, especially when people see this on TV.”
High-profile labor efforts could prove crucial not just to unions in the coming months and years, but also to Democratic attempts to win back Congress and the White House. Last year, Donald Trump won the largest share of union voters for a Republican since 1984. He has since focused on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US.
However, with many of these new jobs being temporary, Democrats feel they can win union voters back by focusing on how to improve such jobs. Such a strategy, if successful, may not just to win back blue-collar voters. It could also help soften racial tensions that have spread among manufacturing workers.
With Republicans fighting unionization nationwide, incoming Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez – who was labor secretary under Barack Obama – has signaled that he intends to focus on supporting efforts to unionize.
In Canton, workers said their efforts could provide a model for the progressive movement in the age of Trump.
“If there was ever a movement to be led,” said Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson, “it would be led out of Mississippi, because we have always led the movement.”
• Mike Elk is a member of the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild. He is the co-founder of Payday Report and was previously senior labor reporter at Politico. This article is reposted from The Guardian by agreement with the author.
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?
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.
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).
by Dan DiMaggio and Sonia Singh
Arkansas poultry workers, Brooklyn warehouse workers and house cleaners, Twin Cities roofers, and thousands of students in places like Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Charlotte, North Carolina. They were all among the tens of thousands who stayed home from work or school across the country during Thursday, February 16’s “Day without Immigrants.”
The action, largely spread over social media and informal networks in working-class immigrant communities, was a response to President Donald Trump’s promise to dramatically expand immigration enforcement and the wave of raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement the prior week.
YOUR RIGHT TO STRIKE
In a Facebook post, Minnesota worker center CTUL suggested sample language for workers who planned to strike:
“My co-workers and I are going on strike to show that immigrant workers are a crucial part of the economy. We want our employers to declare that they will not discriminate against workers based on national origin or religion. We also want our employer to call the White House to oppose Donald Trump’s immigration policies. We are on a one-day strike on February 16, 2017 and we will come back to work the next day, on February 17, 2017.”
“Submit this message by letter, text, or email to your boss,” wrote CTUL. “Keep a copy and document any response you get from your boss. If you are a member of a union, contact your union rep first.”
Workers thinking about participating in similar strikes may also want to consult the NLRB’s Guideline Memorandum Concerning Unfair Labor Practice Charges Involving Political Advocacy, issued in the wake of the mass strike by immigrant workers on May 1, 2006.
For more on organizing collective actions even in non-union workplaces, see “How to Beat Retaliation, Even without a Union” from the January 2016 issue of Labor Notes.
“They’re calling us criminals and rapists,” said Jose Flemate, a member of Roofers Local 96 in St. Paul, Minnesota, who struck with his co-workers. “We’re not like that—we came to America looking for a better life, and we worked hard and built America.
“We want to make sure that people understand that this city would stop functioning if we weren’t there to build, or cook, or clean,” said Ligia Guallpa, an organizer with the Worker’s Justice Project in Brooklyn.
WORD SPREADS LIKE WILDFIRE
In most areas, strikes weren’t coordinated by any organization—and even veteran organizers were taken aback by the scope. “This is a definitely a time when the movement is ahead of organizing,” said Susan Kikuchi, an organizer with the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) in the Twin Cities.
“It’s incredibly surprising to get a call saying, ‘We’re 120 workers and we’ve already told the employer we’re not going in on Thursday,’” said Jorge Mujica, an organizer with Chicago-area worker center ARISE.
After getting a number of similar calls from workers who said they’d already asked their boss for the day off and wanted to know where to meet, ARISE decided to coordinate an action. With less than two days’ notice, over 3,000 people showed up at Chicago’s Union Park.
Restaurant worker Jose (who preferred to not give his last name), a member of the Chicago Workers Collaborative, first heard about the Day without Immigrants on the news. Friends promoted the strike through social media. “People were saying, ‘Don’t go to work, don’t buy anything, don’t go to school.’”
Many of his friends and family members did not go to work. “Everybody was like, ‘We’ve had enough. We don’t really care if they fire us.’” It was the first time he had ever participated in a march or protest.
Flemate also decided to strike after seeing an announcement on social media.
“I said, ‘Look what happened with the Muslim community. They organized in a few hours [after the travel ban],’” he says. “That community got united and showed to the world and the media that they were defending their rights. So why don’t we get united and defend our rights too?”
He was able to convince three co-workers at his roofing company. “The guys said, ‘Yeah, we have bills to pay and we have families, but this is something very important to participate in.’”
Flemate met up with other workers and students in front of the Mexican consulate, then marched to downtown St. Paul, picking up more and more people along the way. He estimated there were 3,000-4,000 people at the state Capitol by 1 p.m.—even though no rally had been called.
In Portland, Oregon, local Latino radio stations announced the strike and encouraged listeners to participate. No one organization took the lead, but their were multiple rallies and many businesses closed down, said Romeo Sosa of the VOZ Workers Education Project, a Portland day laborer organization.
His organization is witnessing widespread fear and panic over rumors of immigration raids, which helped drive participation in the strike. VOZ has set up a raid hotline and is mobilizing rapid response teams.
Fernando Garcia of the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center said that most of the organizing in his area was by word of mouth or took place online, mainly through Facebook. He estimated fifty Latino and immigrant businesses across the region, the poultry capital of the world, closed in support.
The center opened its doors for any striking workers to meet and strategize with other strikers. Around 11 a.m., folks started trickling in. Strikers talked about how to get more co-workers involved next time.
“Not everyone went on strike,” said Maria Araujo, who works in one of the local poultry plants. “So we need get more folks involved. As a mother, it’s very important to me to show my children who I choose not to send to school today the importance of standing up for ourselves.”
RIGHT TO ORGANIZE
Organizers scrambled to make sure workers knew their rights. “Having organized strikes in the past, we knew employers would retaliate,” said Kikuchi.
CTUL posted a Facebook image outlining steps workers could take to boost their protection against retaliation. These included communicating to their boss the reason for striking—via letter, text, or e-mail, placing a demand on management, and making clear that workers would return to work the day after the strike.
The Brooklyn-based Worker’s Justice Project phone-banked members who organizers knew planned to strike, sharing similar information. “We had a lot of conversations with members about what ‘protected concerted activity’ was, and also that they needed to connect their strike to the conditions in their workplace,” said Guallpa. Under U.S. labor law, workers have the right to organize collectively to address workplace issues, including the right to strike without being fired.
“Tell your boss you’re striking not just because of political beliefs, but because of the conditions on your job,” said Guallpa. “Tell them your action is an action to improve wages, and to improve health and safety.”
The center even suggested that workers post on Facebook their intentions to strike over working conditions—so that if the employer retaliated, they would have proof.
MILWAUKEE SHUTS DOWN
A massive Day without Latinos, Immigrants, and Refugees on Monday, February 13 in Milwaukee, coordinated by the immigrant rights group Voces de La Frontera, was an inspiration for many around the country. Voces estimates 30,000 people marched downtown, with buses bringing in supporters from 25 cities across the state.
The strike was called in response to the fear that Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a major Trump supporter, would begin deputizing county police to arrest undocumented immigrants.
After November’s election, Voces immediately started taking the temperature of the community via mass meetings. “We were asking people, ‘Would you be willing to organize more sustained actions for multiple days or multiple times?,’” says Christine Neumann-Ortiz, the organization’s executive director. “The response we got was overwhelmingly yes, and that people were even willing to go further than one day.”
The strike was the sixth organized by Voces since 2006. Its success owes in part to the network of churches and supportive small businesses that grew out of another Day without Latinos last year to protest a state bill outlawing sanctuary cities.
Voces is now calling for escalating actions leading up to a national Day without Latinos, Immigrants, and Refugees on Monday, May 1 to demand Trump rescind all of his executive orders on immigration. In the meantime, the organization is building its rapid response network, recruiting churches to provide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, holding know your rights trainings, and engaging local law enforcement to limit cooperation with ICE. For more info, visit vdlf.org.
Still, over 100 workers around the country were fired for participating in the strike. These include 30 bricklayers in Commerce City, Colorado, 21 workers at a boat building company in Lexington, South Carolina, and 12 line cooks at a restaurant in Catoosa, Oklahoma.
In many instances, however, worker centers and immigrant organizations have been able to bring enough community pressure to get employers to back off retaliation.
That was the case at Chicago grocery chain Pete’s Market. On February 15, a worker posted a picture of a letter workers had received from management there, threatening that anyone who didn’t show up to work the next day would be suspended for a week.
ARISE responded right away with a letter advising Pete’s Market that the workers’ action was protected under labor law. Meanwhile the original post circulated quickly on social media, along with a call for a boycott. Two and half hours later, the company put out a statement that it would be closing six stores for the day, so that workers could participate in the day of action.
Overall, it seems the amount of retaliation around the country was low. Kikuchi said the retaliation was less than what she expected.
CTUL backed workers facing reprisal in eight workplaces, following its usual playbook. After determining how many workers are affected, organizers help workers make a plan, which usually involves calling the boss right away. “A lot of employers haven’t dealt with strikes,” said Kikuchi. “We tell them this strike is legal and protected and the community is watching.”
Often, that causes employers to back down. If not, CTUL organizes a group of allies to accompany workers back to work on their first shift after a strike. CTUL has helped workers resolve five of the eight cases this way so far. Three are still pending.
Although CTUL and other worker centers do everything they can to make sure workers will have legal recourse, ultimately, “it’s community support that’s protecting workers and letting them go back to work, not the law,” said Kikuchi.
It’s important to let workers know that organizations have their backs if they do suffer retaliation, said Neumann-Ortiz of Voces, even if they are unable to get their jobs back. “We’ve worked with people to find new work, or to pay medical bills, or to make rent payments. Workers feel like it’s important to tell that story.” Still, she says, the amount of retaliation has been relatively small in the six Day without Immigrants actions the organization has pulled off since 2006.
AWAKENING A GIANT
As the day unfolded, businesses around the country shut their doors and classrooms stood half-empty. In Grand Rapids, Michigan—hometown of new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—so many students stayed home that the school day will not count.
Isabel Castillo, a Worker’s Justice Center member and housecleaner, kept her son home from school. When she brought him back the next day, “people were very emotional. We felt like human beings,” she said. “We lost a day of work, but we took a big step forward.”
Several organizations have issued a call for a national Day without Immigrants on May 1. These include Voces in Milwaukee, SEIU-United Service Workers West and the Women’s March in California, the national Cosecha network and Democratic Socialists of America.
“We believe strongly that the strategy of a communitywide general strike must be an important tool,” said Neumann-Ortiz. “I think immigrant workers have an inherent understanding of their power in the workplace. They know the economic value they produce.”
“The giant is waking up again,” said Mujica. “It feels like 2006. The community is ready to do something, the community is ready to act.”
[Some quotes in this article have been translated from Spanish.]
Richard Trumpka: 20/15/2017- AFL-CIO Now
Working people deserve to go to work every day without fear for their safety or being harassed. They deserve to go out the door and make a living without worrying about their lives being upended.
These are sacred tenets people and their unions value.
Hotel workers, farm workers, teachers, taxi drivers, airport, construction and retail workers have been making their voices heard in Los Angeles; Phoenix; Austin, Texas; New York City; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and many points in between over the past week. Why? We are defending our neighbors, co-workers and friends who are being swept up in a series of immigration raids. Working people understand in our bones that when the government terrorizes people who are simple living their lives and going to work each day, we all lose. When we allow ourselves to be divided, we are weak, when we are weak, standards erode for all of us.
The early weeks of the Trump administration have sent alarming signals that its law enforcement priorities will target and punish working people, rather than those who steal their wages, harass them on the job and expose them to dangerous working conditions. Such strategies make people afraid to go to work and take their children to school, let alone take action to demand better working conditions or speak up when they encounter abuse. Moreover, they drive down the pay and protections for all working people—immigrant and non-immigrant alike.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sometimes in collaboration with local law enforcement, has arrested hundreds of immigrants, regardless of how long they have lived in the United States or how strong their ties to the community. These highly visible enforcement actions make working people far less likely to exercise their rights at work or to cooperate with law enforcement in their communities. Worse, we hear accounts that racial profiling tactics are leading to collateral arrests and that detainees are being denied due process and access to counsel—further chilling the exercise of fundamental rights.
The labor movement calls on the administration to rein in the tactics that terrorize immigrant workers and fail to make our communities safer or our jobs better. Cities and states around the country have shown a better way forward by committing to ensure basic rights and protections to all members of their communities. The labor movement will stand proudly and firmly with all local leaders who support workers’ rights and prevent exploitation. We know these communities are defending our right to organize to lift standards and cracking down on abusive employers who retaliate against working people. These are core values of the labor movement. Continue reading