How Unions Protect the Undocumented

Brooke Anderson/Creative CommonsUnite

Members of UNITE HERE Local 2 march in San Franciso

David Bacon

Labor historian Fred Glass, looking at the impact of immigration on California’s labor movement, notes that many immigrants have arrived in the state with a long history of labor and left-wing activism. Unions have then called on that history and consciousness to aid in organizing drives among janitors, farm workers, hotel housekeepers, and others. “Because the labor movement has understood this fact and designed its efforts around it,” he argues, “California’s unionization rate remains at 16 percent while the national average is 11 percent.” The state has 2.55 million union members, far more than any other.

To union leaders, that’s also one explanation—in addition to the state designating itself as a sanctuary—for the announcement by the Trump administration that it is targeting California for intensive workplace immigration enforcement. “It’s obvious retaliation for California standing up for immigrants,” charges Wei-Ling Huber, president of UNITE HERE Local 2850, the hotel union in the East and North San Francisco Bay Area. “Its purpose is to create a climate of fear among immigrant workers in general, and to attack the unions that have defended them.”

Last fall the state legislature passed a series of bills intended to protect immigrants, especially immigrant workers. One bars police from asking about immigration status and from participating in immigration enforcement actions with federal agents. A second requires warrants before employers can give agents access to workplaces and records of workers’ immigration status.

Read more:  http://prospect.org/article/how-unions-help-immigrants-resist-deportations

Harold Meyerson- The American Prospect.

As the Senate begins its deliberations on DACA, the ICE Deport Anyone Campaign rolls on. On the Prospect home page today, we’ve posted an article by David Bacon on the efforts of California unions to defend immigrants—and not just their own members—from expulsion, and co-published a piece with Capital & Main on the 5,000 DACA recipients in California who are teachers.

In its zeal to meet deportation quotas, ICE has shown complete indifference to such trivialities as whether their detainees have committed serious crimes or are esteemed members of their communities. As a piece in Monday’s Washington Post documented, ICE arrested 37,734 “non-criminals” in 2017, breaking up families and communities in the process. Continue reading

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Immigration: Response to a Truth Challenged President

Trump  Response to a Truth Challenged President

In the State of the Union, President Trump claims to offer a “down the middle compromise” on immigration.   It is not.  Instead  Trump  continues his attack on immigrants in the United States with his administration’s latest immigration plan. Rather than dealing humanely with the current crisis of immigration, the Trump Administration proposes to waste some 25 Billion dollars of taxpayer money to further militarize border communities by building walls and deploying more federal agents to immigrant communities across the nation. The changes in immigration law proposed by the Trump administration will not benefit our people. They will only devastate communities while pleasing a few white nationalists.

Read the Immigrants’ Rights Committees response to the President on immigration.

 

https://medium.com/@DSA_Immigration/2018-sotu-response-325b6b959093

 

Duane Campbell,  Immigrants’ Rights Committee

Sacramento

dsa.immigraton@gmail.com

The U.S. Needs Cops on the Trade Beat

The Trump Administration’s abruptly announced tariffs on washing machines and solar cells imported to the United States provoked wailing and the gnashing of teeth worldwide.

The same over-the-top beating of breasts can be expected if the administration penalizes steel and aluminum imported from countries that violate trade regulations.

Every time the United States enforces trade law, the recrimination starts. America, the free traders say, has no right to shield its domestic manufacturing from the onslaught of unfairly traded imports. There should be no cops on the trade beat, free traders say. It should be the Wild West when it comes to international trade, with the last factory standing the winner, no matter how many trade rules it defied to get there.

Playing Fair

American manufacturers – including those that make steel, aluminum, solar panels and washing machines – can compete and win against any challenger in the world when the contest is fair, when all firms that export follow trade rules. But American manufacturers lose when foreign producers export underpriced products after receiving loans that don’t have to be paid back, government-subsidized raw materials and other massive state aid.

American manufacturers shouldn’t be patsies in a rigged game. That’s why they are demanding trade law enforcement. They’re not seeking protectionism, which shields domestic manufacturing from fairly traded imports. Instead, they want prosecution, which is punishing trade violators whose cheating destroys American manufacturing and jobs.

China, probably the most flagrant trade rule violator in the world, was among the first to cry “protectionism” after the Trump administration announced the washing machine and solar panel tariffs on Monday. Chinese president Xi Jinping’s chief economic advisor, Liu He, said at Davos this week that his country stood against protectionism and for globalism.

Sure, China wants globalism after its trade violations have destroyed every other country’s industrial base, leaving the Asian giant standing as the only producer globally.

And it’s close to achieving that in the manufacture of solar cells and panels after more than a decade of trade violations. China issued a renewable energy law in 2005 including measures to promote solar manufacturing. Then in 2010, the China State Council listed renewable energy as one of seven industries eligible for special government incentives and loans.

Before China began giving solar manufacturers special perks in 2005, its share of global production was 7 percent. Now, it makes 60 percent of the world’s solar cells and 71 percent of solar modules.

In 2011 the U.S. Commerce Department determined that China was improperly subsidizing its solar producers and that they were selling panels and cells in the United States for less than fair market value, both of which violate trade rules.

As a result, the United States imposed penalties on the imports. Chinese manufacturers ducked the tariffs by moving production to Taiwan.  When American producers asked the Commerce Department in 2013 to deal with this dodge, Chinese companies moved production again.

The Commerce Department concluded that from 2012 to 2016 imports of Chinese solar cells and panels grew 500 percent and the price declined 60 percent, bankrupting and driving out of business American producers. Between 2012 and 2017 – a period of just five years – 25 American solar manufacturers closed. And now, another has shut down and declared bankruptcy.

Last May, two U.S. solar companies asked the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate. The ITC recommended tariffs even higher than those that the president ultimately imposed this week. They penalties are worldwide this time, preventing Chinese companies from evading them by shifting production again.

This kind of trade law flouting by China is exactly what is ravaging the American aluminum and steel industries.

Twenty years ago, there were 23 aluminum smelters in the U.S. Now there are five.

Similarly, in the steel industry, thousands of good, family-supporting U.S. jobs were lost and mills and parts of mills closed as China ramped up production, flooded the world market and drove down prices. Between 2000 and 2014, Chinese steel production rose 540 percent. U.S. production, a mere fraction of the Asian giant’s, fell 13 percent.

As with solar, China put government money into its aluminum and steel industries, improperly tipping the trade scales in its favor. And as with solar, when U.S. aluminum and steel companies won trade cases, some Chinese producers moved or falsely marked products as made elsewhere to skirt American tariffs. The European Union’s anti-fraud office determined the same thing – that Chinese steel was shipped through Vietnam and given fake certificates of origin to evade EU tariffs.

At just about the same time the solar and washing machine trade cases were filed last year, the Trump administration announced it would investigate whether the damaging effects of unfairly traded steel and aluminum were threatening national security. If so, the administration could impose import quotas and tariffs. Initially, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said these investigations, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, would be completed by June 30, 2017.

Integral to every jet, submarine and military weapon, steel and aluminum are vital for defense. Infrastructure is part of national defense as well, from interstate highways to pipelines. The inability to produce these metals in sufficient quantities and qualities domestically jeopardizes national security.

The Commerce Department report was delayed for months, during which time foreign producers flooded as much steel and aluminum as they could into the United States before the anticipated tariffs. Steel imports rose almost 20 percent. Aluminum and bauxite imports rose nearly 32 percent.

The Commerce Department finally delivered the steel report on Jan. 11 and the aluminum report on Jan. 19. Neither was made public, and the administration can, under the terms of the law, wait another 90 days to act. White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Waters said the administration would announce its decision at an appropriate time.

That time is now. It is great that the administration punished the trade-violating exporters of solar products and washing machines. The American steel and aluminum industries and workers want that same enforcement immediately from the nation’s top trade cop.

Leo Gerard is President of the United Steelworkers

 

Continue reading

Winning Working-Class Voters with State Level Consumer Protection

by Marc Dann

Donald Trump’s election, made possible in part by his ability to capture the hearts, minds, aspirations, and votes of working-class men and women, has caused confusion and consternation among Democratic Party leaders. Stunned by the outcome, the Party has spent the last year searching for new messages that could lure this critically important constituency back into the fold. So far, that search has been unsuccessful.

However, as Democratic Party factions bicker, Trump himself may be handing them the issue they can use to end his presidency—and it doesn’t involve porn stars, Russians, racism, or tax cuts for the rich, none of which seem to matter much to the president’s supporters.

No, the Trumpites won’t turn away from him because of the outrageous things he says, or even the possibly illegal things he’s done. But they might abandon him when they finally realize that he’s betrayed them by gutting the regulatory framework that really made America great for the working class. Trump’s crusade to kill every rule and law he can get his hands on could be the thing that kills his presidency.

Some may scoff at this idea, but consider how these actions, all taken in the interest of his buddies on Wall Street, harm families who live on Main Street:

  • Net neutrality may seem like an arcane issue, but FCC Chair Ajit Pai ‘s decision to roll back Obama-era internet rules will inevitably lead to increased costs for internet access.
  • Betsy Devos, the clueless Secretary of Education, is repealing rules that made it difficult for private universities to rip-off students and making it more expensive for kids and parents to repay student loans.
  • Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who was installed as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), has submitted a “zero budget” for the agency he absolutely loathes, and instituted a hiring freeze and a prohibition on new regulations.  Just for good measure, he’s also decided to make it easier for the vultures in the payday lending industry to prey on the poor and the working class.
  • The Labor Department’s decision to allow pool-tipping and to ditch rules that would have made hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers eligible for overtime pay will cost working families millions of dollars each year.
  • The unrelenting attack on the Affordable Care Act, which survived repeal but has taken a number of other hits, will lead to premium increases and the loss of coverage in the years ahead.

Every one of these actions will impact working-class Americans disproportionately, especially those who live on the edge of bankruptcy and lack the financial resources to fend off unscrupulous lenders and other scam artists. According to a 2016 Federal Reserve Report 46% of American households could not handle a $400 emergency expense. That makes them prime targets for payday, car title, and predatory mortgage lenders that generate huge profits by exploiting people who barely live paycheck-to-paycheck.

That’s why rolling back regulations on these industries, and especially eviscerating the CFPB, is such a big betrayal of Trump’s base. Since the CFPB was established in 2011 as part of the Dodd Frank Act, the agency has clamped down on predatory bankers, mortgage loan servicers, debt buyers, debt collectors, payday lenders, and credit card companies. It has recovered $12 billion for more than 29 million consumers. It also developed a centralized, transparent system for processing consumer complaints and created a searchable database that enables people to determine if a company they’re about to do business with has a history of ripping off consumers. In short, it has helped level the playing field between average Americans and the finance industry. That’s exactly why Trump wants to kill it, but it’s also why its demise will make life significantly worse for working-class families.

Now that Trump has positioned himself at the edge of the abyss, one question remains: will the Democrats be able to push him off?  I believe the answer is yes, but they must start this year by creating state agencies to take on the responsibilities the feds are abandoning. Montana Governor Steve Bullock is already taking this path by ordering agencies to create and enforce state-based net neutrality rules.

Democratic officeholders and candidates should also press for the establishment of transparent and statutorily independent Departments of Consumer Protection (DCPs). These “one stop shops” should identify potential financial predators, create an equitable process for resolving individual consumer complaints, and have the power to sue companies and industries that target vulnerable consumers or to force other regulators or the state attorney general’s office to do so. DCPs directors or commissions should serve terms that overlap those of the authorities who appoint them, and they should be subject to removal only for malfeasance. They could be funded by a portion of the fees paid to create new companies or to register foreign corporations doing business in the state, from the registration fees paid by regulated industries, and from fines and civil penalties collected via enforcement of state-based consumer protection laws.

We need this kind of independent agency because in most states the responsibility for protecting consumers is spread among multiple agencies or is subject to the political whims of the elected Attorney General.  Even worse, in some cases agencies and licensing boards handle complaints, even though they can be heavily influenced by lobbyists for the profession or industry they oversee — a situation that produces reliably unfavorable outcomes for consumers.

In addition to establishing new regulatory agencies, Democrats should push to bring industries like loan services, payday lenders, debt collectors, and car dealerships under the jurisdiction of the DCPs. Such agencies should also oversee wage and hour enforcement for workers.

Democrats can also protect working-class people by creating laws based on successful consumer protection statutes enacted in other states. That might include a Student Borrower Bill of Rights like that enacted by the legislature in Illinois to create transparency and to outlaw deceptive practices by student loan lenders or a Homeowner’s Bill of Rights similar to one enacted in California. Dems could model fair debt collection practices that prohibit companies that collect their own debts from engaging in deceptive practices on a Florida law. They could propose a bill like the one enacted in North Carolina, creating standards for debt buyers, including those that buy private student loans, to prove that they have the right to enforce the debt before taking legal. Other possibilities include an enforceable payday lending bill that outlaws title loans and protections against data breaches, which now exist in only 14 states.

When combined with Trump’s unrelenting attack on the very things that make America a land of opportunity, these bold, state-based initiatives may provide Democrats with the weapon they need to send Trump back to his tower – and actually make America better for the working class.

Marc Dann

Marc Dann served as Attorney General of the State of Ohio and now leads the Dann Law Firm, which specializes in protecting consumers from various forms of predatory financing.  His essay is reposted from Working Class Perspectives.

Paul Booth: Organizer, Teacher, RIP

Six days ago, I was having an email exchange with the author of a piece I was editing on how Democrats can both turn out their base and reach out to voters outside their base in the 2018 midterms. We were going back and forth on three points in the piece—chiefly, on whether Latinos could be said to have realigned themselves more toward the Democrats during the 1990s (the author’s position) or whether so many new Latino voters came forth during that decade that their Democratic shift was more a surge than a realignment (my position).

After dredging up the exit poll percentages from the California gubernatorial elections of 1990, 1994, and 1998, and doing the numerical calculations (candidate preference percentage times Latino share of the electorate times raw number of votes cast) to come up with the steadily declining number of Latino votes for the Republican gubernatorial candidates in those three elections, the author quietly and indisputably won his point.

He then added: “I’m a trifle indisposed though I will try to do some revisions on points 2+3 later this morning. (Actually I’m at Sibley [a Washington, D.C., hospital] dealing with a flare-up of leukemia!). Can you point me to more data sources on the CA question?”

The indisposed author—Paul Booth—suddenly and shockingly died yesterday, succumbing to his flare-up of leukemia. So suddenly and unexpectedly that his wife, the legendary organizer Heather Booth, was on Capitol Hill getting herself arrested for demanding justice—and legal standing, and a path to citizenship—for DACA recipients and the other undocumenteds. Continue reading

Is Traditional Union Organizing a Lost Cause?

The Most Successful Union Organizer in America Thinks Traditional Organizing Is a Lost Cause

On the latest episode of “The Bottom Line” podcast, David Rolf of the SEIU explains why worker advocates need to move to a different model.

https://capitalandmain.com/the-most-successful-union-organizer-in-america-thinks-traditional-organizing-is-a-lost-cause

Remembering Martin Luther King and His Roots in the Labor and Socialist Movement

king

By Nathan Newman

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, it’s worth remembering that his legacy was based firmly in the labor and the socialist movements of the 20th century. It takes nothing away from King to highlight how his work built on those movements and his voice was magnified by his association with them.

Martin Luther King Jr. was recruited in Montgomery by a labor organizer, gave his most famous speech at a DC rally funded by labor unions, was bailed out of a Birmingham jail with union dues and would die in Memphis fighting for a union.

E.D. Nixon and Montgomery

Most people know at this point that Rosa Parks was not some random woman sitting down on a bus because she was tired, but was a civil rights activist in the Montgomery community who had become chapter secretary of the local NAACP chapter. Less known to many is Edgar Daniel (“E.D.”) Nixon who was a long-time leader of the NAACP chapter and who in fact launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott and recruited the young Martin Luther King Jr. to help lead the campaign. Continue reading