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

Corporations Win Janus Decision

For decades, powerful corporate interests have been advancing policies that erode protections for working people.

Time and again, these interests have gone to court in an attempt to undermine the right of state and local government workers to collectively bargain for fair wages, fair benefits and a safe workplace.

Today, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with corporate interests over working people, profoundly affecting the future of workers’ rights.

In Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31 the court overturned 40 years of precedent and advanced a corporate agenda that weakens the bargaining power of public servants and members of our community. State and local government union members are teachers, firefighters, police officers, and social workers. They are the backbone of our community and they should have the freedom to join together in union.

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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.

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Sacramento County Ends Cooperation With ICE

DSAAs Co Chair of DSA’s Immigrants’ Rights Committee I testified  on May 29 to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to not renew an existing contract with ICE to use the Sacramento County Jail to hold immigrants.  California, and Sacramento, is already a Sanctuary state/county.

On Tuesday, the County Supervisors voted 3-2 to end the contract in opposition to the position of the pro Trump Sherrif and his allies.

http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/article212627694.html

Opposition to the use of the jail for immigration holds by ICE developed significantly as a response to the Trump campaign of defamation against our sanctuary policies and the development of the new Trump Administration policy of separating children under 4 years old from their parents upon arrest.

See the post below.

The campaign  was an effort of a broad coalition, including DSA.

As the campaign mounted, we received significant local media support.   Author Sasha Abramsky compared the work of ICE agents to those prosecuted at Nuremberg after WW II.  http://antiracismdsa.blogspot.com/2018/06/will-ice-agents-be-able-to-live-with.html

The local paper which is decidedly moderate on most things, editorialized strongly against continuing the ICE Contract asking, How much is it worth to Sacramento County to stop being part of the Trump administration’s deportation machine?

Below is a brief excerpt of my testimony and the background.

My Name is Dr. Duane Campbell.

I am the Co Chair of the Immigrants’ Rights Committee of Democratic Socialists of America.

This issue before you 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.   They are violating both due process and human rights.

Sacramento County should not be a party to this “ foul deportation and family destruction machine. “   We must take a stand. We call upon you to take a stand for justice and humanity,  to not  collaborate with an evil project.

I urge you to refuse to renew the contract between the County and ICE for the holding of immigrants. “

In the vote we won 3-2.

Ed. Note.  Some 7,500 ICE Agents are represented by ICE Council, part of the American Federation of Government Employees.  The union has taken a position to oppose the smuggling of children.  It has not taken a position on the deliberate separation of families as a deterrent strategy.

 

 

 

Sanders Seeks to Expand Union Rights

SandersThe fight to expand democratic control over the workplace just received a major shot in the arm.

From: Working In These Times.

Today, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced sweeping legislation that would dramatically expand labor rights, making it easier for workers to join unions, speed up contract negotiations, roll back “right to work” laws and clamp down on union-busting tactics by employers.

The legislation, known as the Workplace Democracy Act (WDA), is being co-sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and has been endorsed by more than a dozen major unions and labor groups.

At an event on Wednesday announcing the legislation, Sanders said: “If we are serious about reducing income and wealth inequality and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to substantially increase the number of union jobs in this country.”

If passed, the legislation would redistribute power on the job to vastly benefit workers over their employers. And it would do so by extending democracy to the place Americans spend much of their waking lives.

In the United States, the concept of democracy generally conjures images of voting booths and candidate forums. But every time workers come together to advocate their interests and challenge concentrated power, they are practicing democracy. In daily life, one of the most important—and universal—arenas for this form of democratic action is the workplace.

Corporations and employers hold enormous power over workers, dictating which hours of the day they’re at work, what they’re allowed to say on the clock, what they wear and when they can go to the bathroom. Employers also determine workers’ wages as well as the type of healthcare they receive (if any)—all with the dangling threat of losing their job if at any time a boss decides they are expendable.

This slanted power dynamic is what allows employers to keep workers compliant even under abhorrent conditions. And it is why the role of labor unions—the primary vehicle for advancing democracy in the workplace—is absolutely critical to protecting workers’ rights at a time of unchecked corporate power.

Enshrining labor rights

The WDA would simplify the process of unionization by allowing the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to certify a union if a majority of eligible workers say they want to join. That process, commonly called “card check,” would eliminate union elections and give workers a clearer pathway to organizing their workplaces.

As it currently stands, employers have wide-ranging power to influence and intimidate workers into voting against unionization. They commonly force employees to attend anti-union meetings and threaten workers involved in organizing campaigns. The WDA would curb this type of behavior and create a more level playing field during union drives.

Labor advocates believe such reform is critical to giving workers a stronger voice on the job. In an interview with In These Times, David Johnson, National Field Director for the National Nurses United (NNU)—which has endorsed the legislation—says the WDA “is an important step forward in restoring what should be worker’s constitutional rights to engage in concerted activity to freely associate and to form strong unions to advocate for themselves and, in the case of registered nurses, to advocate for their patients as well.”

The legislation would also repeal section 14(b) of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which has allowed 28 states to pass laws restricting the ability of unions to collect dues from members who benefit from collective bargaining agreements. Such “right to work” laws have weakened unions in these states and led to lower overall pay for workers.

Under the WDA, employers would also be required to enter into contract negotiations within 10 days of a new union being formed. A full 37 percent of new unions go without a first contract for at least two years because of employers dragging their heels on negotiations. Such practices would be ended by this legislation.

As Sanders explained when introducing the bill: “Corporate America understands that when workers become organized, when workers are able to engage in collective bargaining, they end up with far better wages and benefits… and that is why, for decades now, there has been a concentrated well-organized attack on the ability of workers to organize.”

A more democratic economy

The push for the WDA—a version of which was originally introduced in 2015—comes on the heels of an announcement that Sanders’ office will soon propose a federal jobs guarantee. While the specifics have not yet been revealed, at its core such a program would seek to create a system of full employment in the United States, offering a job paying $15 an hour to any worker who wants one.

Once enacted, such a plan would have the potential to fundamentally shift the relationship of workers to their employers. If a job were always available through the government, workers would no longer live under the constant threat of losing their livelihood whenever their boss decides they are no longer needed. By setting a floor with a living wage, this form of a jobs guarantee would likely lift up the pay and benefits of workers everywhere, and open the space for more union activity in the private sector.

The combination of the WDA and a jobs guarantee, taken together with proposals for instituting Medicare for all, a federal $15 minimum wage and paid family leave, represents a barrage of progressive changes to the U.S. economy that would lift millions out of poverty and bring more democracy into workers’ daily lives.

Other senators have also recently voiced support for a version of a jobs guarantee, including Gillibrand and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). And the demand is not new in American politics: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously fought for full employment as a means to end poverty and advance the cause of racial justice.

Misery into progress

King was a staunch supporter of union rights throughout his life. In 1965, he gave a speech to the state convention of the Illinois AFL-CIO in which he called the labor movement “the principal force that transforme­d misery and despair into hope and progress.” King’s last major campaign before he was assassinated in April, 1968 involved joining with striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn. to win justice and dignity on the job.

In 2018, 50 years after King’s death, the U.S. labor movement is facing monumental threats. The Supreme Court will soon rule on Janus vs. AFSCME, a case that is poised to deal a severe blow to public-sector unions. President Trump is overseeing a massive rollback of workers’ rights and stacking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with appointees who are outwardly hostile to unions.

Corporate entities such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have engaged in a decades-long campaign to weaken the power of labor, and today unionization rates in the United States stand at among their lowest levels in generations.

As NNU’s Johnson says, “I think we should be clear: There is a relative handful of incredibly wealthy, powerful mostly white men who are standing in the way of working people having the kind of country we deserve, where people have rights and they have decent wages and a decent community and a safe and healthy workplace, and education and healthcare as human rights.”

However, there are also signs of hope.

In states across the country, from West Virginia to Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado, teachers have waged statewide strikes to win higher pay and better working conditions. Rank-and-file caucuses are helping to transform their unions into more militant organizations, willing to take dramatic action to defend members and stand up to attacks.

Workers in a diverse array of industries, from media to universities, logistics and tech, are launching new union drives. And over the past two years, workers under the age of 35 have led an unprecedented surge in union membership, and are much more likely to view unions positively. Overall, labor unions are now viewed more favorably by the public than they have been in well over a decade.

At a time of staggering economic inequality, when corporate profits are soaring while the safety net is shredded and working people are forced to scramble over crumbs, the renewed interest in labor unions is a sign that Americans are coming to see collective action as the best way to improve their living conditions and wrest workplace power from profit-obsessed employers.

While the WDA may be a dead letter under Trump and the GOP Congress, it does plant a flag for how a more democratic economy could be structured. And with a potential political sea change on the way in coming election cycles, this type of bold proposal sets the contours for what progressive politicians and activists alike can demand.

As workers are proving across the country, winning a better standard of living is possible, but it can only come about through demanding—and practicing—democracy on the job.

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