ICE Helps Unscrupulous Employer Shaft Injured Worker

by Paul Garver

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

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

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

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

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

‘I Came Here To Fight For My Family’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fears Bosses Could Retaliate Against Some Immigrant Workers

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

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

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

The company, Tara Construction, has declined to comment.

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

Christina Corbaci, an immigration lawyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

38,000 ATT Workers Strike

ATT_Strike_Smaller_DSA-StandsWithWorkersUpdate: The Strike is over for now.

CWA union members have been working closely with DSA on organizing efforts across the country. 38,000 CWA folks at AT&T have been working without a contract. This has gone on far too long. Now AT&T workers in 36 states and Washington, DC are on strike.

 

DSA’s national Steering Committee endorses this strike. DSA local groups and individual members are joining striking workers at picket lines across the country. Click here to RSVP for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Downloadable DSA solidarity signs are available here and here.

Members who can’t join a picket line are encouraged to email AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and tell him to settle now.

UPDATE: DirecTV employees are joining the potential strike as well. Now 40,000 workers are ready to stand up for their livelihoods — and their dignity. Continue reading

North American IUF Affiliates rally at Mondelez shareholder meeting

IUF Global Mondelez Union Network

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

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

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

Tell ATT: Respect the Workers!

att-west-rallyOur friends at the Communication Workers of America need you. CWA union members have been working closely with DSA on organizing efforts across the country. Now 38,000 CWA folks at AT&T are fighting for their livelihoods. DSA’s Steering Committee endorses their actions, and we want you to know about it. You can help workers right now by emailing AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. And thank you!

In solidarity,  Maria Svart, DSA National Director
CWA member Cindi Chesters:
I may be on strike Friday along with 38,000 of my coworkers at AT&T if we haven’t won a fair union contract by then. I’m a single parent of four and there is a lot on the line for me. My kids are the reason I’m fighting so hard and why I’m ready to do whatever I have to do to make sure they have a good life. We hope to avoid having to strike, but we may have to make that sacrifice to make sure our livelihoods are secure.

Please stand with us. Click here to email AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson now and demand that he settle a union contract that protects good jobs.

I work at an AT&T retail store, but the company wants to keep closing stores and instead send work to third-party dealers where workers make super low-wages and don’t have the union protections we have. Meanwhile, my co-workers at AT&T call centers worry that their jobs will be sent overseas.

CEO Stephenson made $28.4 million last year, while he cut our commissions, which meant I took home less pay than the year before. This fight is about making sure working people can make a decent living in this country. We are up against unaccountable corporations that are working us harder for less in order to pad their bottom line. Continue reading

Support AT&T Workers

by CWA member Cindi Chesters

att-west-rally

I may be on strike Friday along with 38,000 of my coworkers at AT&T if we haven’t won a fair union contract by then. I’m a single parent of four and there is a lot on the line for me. My kids are the reason I’m fighting so hard and why I’m ready to do whatever I have to do to make sure they have a good life. We hope to avoid having to strike, but we may have to make that sacrifice to make sure our livelihoods are secure.

Please stand with us. Click here to email AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson now and demand that he settle a union contract that protects good jobs.

I work at an AT&T retail store, but the company wants to keep closing stores and instead send work to third-party dealers where workers make super low-wages and don’t have the union protections we have. Meanwhile, my co-workers at AT&T call centers worry that their jobs will be sent overseas.

CEO Stephenson made $28.4 million last year, while he cut our commissions, which meant I took home less pay than the year before. This fight is about making sure working people can make a decent living in this country. We are up against unaccountable corporations that are working us harder for less in order to pad their bottom line.

As the only income for a family of five, my budget is tight as it is, and the money I may lose if I go on strike isn’t something I take lightly. That’s why I’ve been preparing, saving money, stocking up on groceries, and making a plan.

Please take action and send a message to the CEO that you support workers fighting for their livelihoods.

There is too much on the table for us to sit back and let the company take advantage of us anymore. We want to be treated like human beings.

If we strike, we’re following in the footsteps of our brothers and sisters at Verizon who last year struck for 49 days and won big improvements for themselves, their families, and sent a message that corporate giants can be beat if working people stick together.

Thank you for your support. If we strike, we’ll be back in touch with more information about how you can support us on a picket line near you. Until then, I hope you’ll email CEO Stephenson to make sure he knows his customers and members of the community have our back.

Thank you for listening to my story,

Cindi Chesters
AT&T Sales Support Representative, Shelton, CT

http://www.dsausa.org/

Trumpism, Labor and the Civil Rights Movement

John Mason,
I have been celebrating May Day, THE international day honoring workers and our achievements in organizing for our rights, and what we accomplish if the workers stand together and fight the bosses and their political minions. I have been active in these campaigns-don’t worry, we’ll still have Labor Day in September.

The origins of May Day are in the struggles in this country for an eight-hour working day, led by the Knights of Labor.  The American origins of May Day have been obscured by the appropriation by the Soviet Union, China, and other Communist regimes of revolutionary culture to further their ends, which have not been revolutionary; it gave the regimes the appearance of being radical and revolutionary. Now, the truth has been coming out, and I urge you to look up the web site, maydayusa.org.   (This raises the question: what other things have we been lied to about, in schools, media, and politics?)

We need to have such solidarity in these times of trump as our “president,” and I have NO obligation to show him ANY respect! A woman was arrested for laughing at Attorney General Jeff Sessions-laughing! Political satire, laughing at the doings of our elected (by whom?) officials is a venerable American tradition; currently, we have seeing a new golden age of it, with the work of Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, and Stephen Colbert-who recently faced trumpist howling after a great monologue. Continue reading

Where We Are Going Politically – a Labor Perspective on Values

by Stan Sorscher

Labor Representative at SPEEA/IFPTE

  • Donald Trump’s first few disorienting months leave many people wondering what governing looks like any more. It’s time to look away from the political spectacle, and take a deep breath.

    Consider two opposing value statements.

    “We all do better” Value Statement

    • The purpose of our economy is to raise our standard of living. Here, “standard” applies to our community and our country.
    • We value opportunity and fairness, stronger communities, shared prosperity, and investment in the future.
    • All work has dignity.
    • We are each other’s co-workers, neighbors, friends, relatives, and customers. We all do better when we all do better. My well-being depends on your well-being.

    Under “we all do better” values, government plays a legitimate role – building social cohesion and promoting public interest.

    Markets are powerful and efficient, but markets fail. Climate change and inequality are the two defining challenges of our time, and arguably the two biggest market failures in human history. Appropriate public policies prevent or correct market failures. We should manage national policies and globalization to strengthen Democracy and well-being at home and abroad.

    “Greed is good” Value Statement

    • Investor/shareholder interests come first; public interests second. Money and influence capture gains from productivity and globalization for those at the top.
    • Self-interest is more important than common interest. Power and leverage are used to gain advantage for “us” over “them.”
    • Greed is good.
    • I can succeed at your expense. “Others” are a threat to my well-being. I can demonize or vanquish others to get a bigger piece of a smaller pie.

    Under “greed is good” values, power and influence distort public policies in favor of those who already have plenty of both. These values weaken social cohesion, and discredit institutions of civil society. We manage national policies and globalization to prioritize investor interests over public interests. Workers need to sacrifice our living standards “to compete in the global economy.”

    Lessons from history

    “Greed is good” values dominated America in the gilded age and the laissez faire period leading to the Great Depression and political instability.

    The New Deal period, from the 30’s through the mid-70’s, reflected “we all do better” values. Congress passed Social Security and Medicare; funded public investments in rural electrification, the interstate highway system, and basic research; set strong labor and environmental standards; and supported higher education. Wages rose proportionatelywith productivity.

    The New Deal era ended in the mid-70s’, when we shifted back to “greed is good” values. In the 90’s, Congressional hardliners delegitimized Democracy, shut down the government, took pride in disruption and dysfunction, and polarized our political system. Confidence in Congress dropped from 40% at the end of the New Deal era to 9% now. Donald Trump is the end-point of that transformation in values.

    Harvard economist Dani Rodrik points out that other countries have done well, maintaining a strong sense of shared national interest – China, Japan, and South Korea for example. Europe has a stronger tradition of social dialogue and more social cohesion than we do. Canada is closer to the European model. That said, social cohesion is unraveling generally. People everywhere see themselves being left behind.

    What Works?

    Decades of narrow and divisive values have eroded trust, deindustrialized our economy, and seriously wounded the middle class. This is not stable, politically or economically.

    Of course, it’s working brilliantly for the 1%.

    One message of the 2016 presidential campaign is that workers and communities mistrust establishment politicians. All the Republican establishment candidates were quickly swept aside. Few voters were inspired by Hillary Clinton’s economic message, which seemed to be “We’re OK. It’s not as bad as you think!”

    Dani Rodrik asks, is it too late to restore balance between those who have too much power and those with too little?

    Leaders lead. Franklin Roosevelt articulated positive unifying values responding to anxieties of voters. He confronted corporate power and influence, restructured power relationships, and shared new gains with those who had been left out.

    Our political situation is confusing and frustrating. Tactically, the path of least resistance is “resistance” or full battle mode. However, resistance without vision goes nowhere.

    Here is a very simple positive first step. When we see others on the street, at work, in a shop, or elevator, think of them as a co-worker, neighbor, friend or relative, a customer, or someone who could become your customer. That is, we can stretch our personal boundaries between “self and other.” Make more people “us” and fewer people “them.” Every day.

    We can appreciate the value others bring. They are not a threat to our way of life. Their culture, their food, music, and stories enrich our lives. It’s true if we say it is true. We need to say it.

    Political leaders need to say it. At a recent Town Hall meeting, a House member shared a profound insight with angry constituents. He has two tools – his vote and his voice. His votes were not the issue. His constituents were expecting more from his voice.

    The neoliberal trickle-down approach is exhausted. Markets will not solve all our problems. Too often, what we are told is progress is really another distortion of power relationships to extract more gains from workers for the benefit of a few.

    All work has dignity. “We all do better” values justify a managed approach to globalization. Focused industrial strategies can create good jobs by investing in productive capacity. New policies can strengthen the employment relationship, restoring workers’ bargaining power.

    In globalization, we should prioritize labor rights, human rights and environmental protections, so workers and communities get a share of the gains they produce. Globalization could be an upward spiral instead of a race to the bottom.

    The corrupting power of money in politics must be reversed. People can lead with local efforts to raise minimum wages, provide paid sick leave and rebuild social cohesion.

    It’s time (again) to recognize our shared values and common interests. If people lead, eventually leaders will follow.

    Reposted from the Huffington Post with the permission of the author