Day Without Immigrants: The New Workers’ May Day

by Peter Olney and Rand Wilson

Food Production

The buzz about a Day without Immigrants on May 1, 2017 is growing. Spanish radio is already churning with calls for strikes, rallies and demonstrations on May 1. This movement recalls the giant mobilizations of May 1, 2006 that occurred in response to proposed draconian anti-immigrant federal legislation called the Sensenbrenner Immigration Bill.

May Day has its historic origins in the nineteenth century struggle for the eight-hour day. In many cities on May Day in 2006, the marches and rallies proved to be the largest in history. Industries that relied on immigrant labor were paralyzed as millions of workers responded to the call for a Day without Latinos (also called the Great American Boycott). Labor participated unevenly in these rallies and mostly in places where the membership in service unions was predominately Latino. This year, in the turmoil surrounding the Trump Presidency, May 1 could be a great opportunity for the labor movement to flex its muscles and build its future.

Labor’s participation is important to the future of American politics. For example, look at the history of politics in California. Turn back the clock 23 years to 1994 when then Republican Governor Pete Wilson faced a fierce re-election battle. He launched a “Trump-like” assault on “illegal” immigration replete with videos of masses of Mexicans streaming across the border and threatening California. It was a brazen racist ploy called Proposition 187, introduced to bolster his reelection bid. Union leaders in California faced a critical decision about whether to participate in the massive Los Angeles mobilization against Prop 187.

In a meeting of labor leadership, some union leaders argued that it was important not to participate in the Los Angeles’ May 1 march so as not to alienate “Encino Man” — the Reagan Democrats of the San Fernando Valley and elsewhere. In the midst of a heated discussion, AFL-CIO Regional Director David Sickler made a dramatic plea to Los Angeles’ trade unionists:

“If we don’t march with these Latin workers, we will lose the confidence and trust of whole generation of Latinos.”

Sickler’s argument won the day, and Los Angeles’ labor turned out for the march. That action, and many others, solidified the labor/Latino nexus. In one generation, California went from “Reagan-land” to solid Blue Democratic.

Again the same challenge faces labor, however now it’s on a national scale. And the opportunity for the labor movement is equally huge. Supporting the upcoming May 1 protests, strikes and other actions will clearly demonstrate that unions are ready to be a champion of the rising Latino demographic. Conversely, sitting on the sidelines will mark us as bystanders to racist repression.

Recently building trades labor leaders blindly and naively embraced Trump’s agenda by meeting with him at the White House just days after his inauguration and lauding his commitment to build infrastructure and oil pipelines — but with no commitment to pro-labor codes like prevailing wage or project labor agreements. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka — usually a strong voice for racial justice — recently embraced Trump’s talk of immigration reform after his speech to a joint session of Congress. Again, a major labor leader is blindly and naively playing into Trump’s racist rhetoric. These actions by the building trades and the leader of the AFL-CIO undermine the U.S. labor movement’s need to squarely be on the side of immigrants battling Trump’s racist rhetoric, executive orders and travel bans.

There are many possible levels of participation for labor and unions on May 1. Each union must determine what’s the most appropriate way to participate based on its members needs and consciousness. In California, SEIU’s United Service Workers West, representing over 60,000 janitors, security guards and airport service workers has announced on Facebook its support for a May 1 strike. The United Food and Commercial Workers, representing supermarket workers in Southern California and the hotel workers union (UNITE HERE) are both assessing their actions in California. California is fertile ground for these protests with a sympathetic and supportive political infrastructure and a demographic tidal wave that means that Latinos are now the largest ethnic group in the state — out numbering Anglos 39 to 38 percent.

These calls for strikes may snowball. On the hastily organized February 17 “Day without Immigrants,” tens of thousands of mostly Latin service workers in many cities and towns stayed home (in many cases with the support of their employers). Earlier in February, Comcast employees at the company’s headquarters walked out to march and rally against Trump’s immigration policies. There is no reason not to expect similar dramatic actions on May Day. The social fervor is such that strikes in certain sectors and workplaces are very possible and possible with relative impunity.

With the prospect of large rallies and marches on May 1, some other unions are talking about participating in an organized way — even if it means after work or on off shifts. Just visibly marching with banners and signs in support of immigrant rights would be important and impactful to the thousands of immigrants who will brave deportation to hit the streets. Unions at the national and local level have an opportunity to speak with one voice in defense of immigrants. In specific locations like Los Angeles, these unions and others may hold joint press conferences and public events. Equally important will be actions in the “heartland” where immigrants may feel more politically and organizationally isolated than on the coasts.

Some unions have already begun “Know Your Rights” solidarity trainings to prepare workers for Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) raids that could take place in the community and the workplace. Union halls could become “Sanctuary Sites” for the undocumented. And now is a timely moment for always appreciated contributions of money, materials and office space to immigrant rights groups.

In addition to SEIU’s United Service Workers West, several national political and immigrants’ rights groups are organizing for the May 1 Day Without Immigrants including: Solid (an open-source project offered by Brandworkers), Strike Core, Cosecha, and the Beyond the Moment March.

May 1 is the traditional international day of working class solidarity, a holiday born of the U.S. struggle for the eight-hour day. It can be reclaimed with gusto this year as a focused attack on the anti-immigrant policies of Trump. But more than that, it is a day to cement the alliance between labor and the immigrant working class.

Unions Organize to Defend Immigrants

Health Care Workers Bring Sanctuary Efforts to their Union.

http://www.labornotes.org/2017/04/health-care-workers-bring-sanctuary-movement-union

Also: Unions Unite to Build the May Day Efforts.

http://www.labornotes.org/2017/03/momentum-builds-may-day-strikes

California Unions Organize to Defend Immigrant Workers

http://www.peoplesworld.org/article/california-unions-move-to-resist-trumps-anti-immigrant-actions/

400,000 Workers Plan to Strike May 1

immig

A Day Without Immigrants” May Day Strike Announced

Over 400,000 Workers Commit to Strike in Press Conference with Immigrant Rights Organizations and Unions

Washington, DC – Immigrant Rights Organizations, Workers Centers and Unions launch a national strike billed as a “day without immigrants” to demonstrate that the country depends on the labor of immigrants and working class people of color. Hundreds of thousands of workers have already pledged to strike in what organizers expect to be the largest national strike since the Megamarches of 2006.

Speakers at the press conference included Erika Andiola as well as representatives of Movimiento Cosecha, the SEIU United Service Workers West, and the Food Chain Workers Alliance.

“May 1st is the first step in a series of strikes and boycotts that will change the conversation on immigration in the United States,” said Maria Fernanda Cabello, a spokesperson from Movimiento Cosecha. “We believe that when the country recognizes it depends on immigrant labor to function, we will win permanent protection from deportation for the 11 million undocumented immigrants; the right to travel freely to visit our loved ones abroad, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect. After years of broken promises, raids, driving in fear of being pulled over, not being able to bury our loved ones, Trump is just the final straw. As we saw during the spontaneous strikes on February 16th, our people are ready.”

Tens of thousands of members of the SEIU United Service Workers West have pledged to strike on May 1st, to demand an end to the criminalization of black and brown communities, an end to raids and deportations, and an end to worker exploitation. “The policies of the Trump administration are motivated by cruelty. They villainize black and brown people and call us rapists and violent criminals. They break apart immigrant families and separate parents from their children, and for no reason,” said Denise Solis, first vice-president of the SEIU USWW. “We are shutting it down on May 1st to stand up to these policies and show that most Americans don’t support cruelty and racism.” High School and College students, as part of the Sanctuary Campus movement, will also be joining the May 1st Day Without Immigrants Strike with mass walkouts.

“I’m a cafeteria worker at one of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, Intel, and my coworkers and I organized and won significant raises and healthcare. Now, we’re coming together with hundreds more cafeteria workers on May Day to stand united,” said Cristina Moreno, member of UNITE HERE Tech Cafeteria Workers and cashier at Intel, 20 years of service in tech cafeterias. “Immigrants like us are the backbone of the Valley’s tech industry, and we won’t tolerate Trump and his racist policies.”

Continue reading

Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and the Legacy

Celebrate Labor History

Chavez

“When we are really  honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us.  So it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of people we are. ..I am convinced that the truest act of courage..is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice.”
Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)

by Duane Campbell

On March 31, 2017, Eleven states and numerous cities will hold holidays celebrating labor and Latino leader Cesar Chavez.

Conferences, marches and celebrations will occur in numerous cities and particularly in rural areas of the nation. A recent film Cesar Chavez: An American Hero, starring Michael Peña as Cesar Chavez and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta presents important parts of this union story.

The current UFW leadership, as well as former UFW leaders and current DSA Honorary Chairs Eliseo Medina and Dolores Huerta are recognized leaders in the ongoing efforts to achieve real  immigration reform in the nation.

UFW President Arturo Rodriquez says, “We urge Republicans to abandon their political games that hurt millions of hard-working, taxpaying immigrants and their families, and help us finish the job by passing legislation such as the comprehensive reform bill that was approved by the Senate on a bipartisan vote in June 2013,” Rodriguez said. “The UFW will not rest until the President’s deferred relief is enacted and a permanent immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, is signed into law.” http://www.UFW.org

Let us be clear. Chavez was religious, but he was not a saint. Neither were the growers, their Teamster collaborators, nor corporate agribusiness saints. Celebrations should not be about hero worship or uncritical praise, nor should we ignore the present oppression of farm workers in the U.S. Continue reading

Teachers’ Union Helps Immigrant and Refugee Children

Pages from im_uac-educators-guide_2016The 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.
Excellent resources.
Downloadable copy  at aflcio.org/immigrationresources.

California Labor Steps up for Immigrants

LACLAA

by Duane Campbell

The California Federation of Labor is holding a series of Immigrant Workers Rights and Defense Training around the state. I attended one today and they were well done. Immigrant rights activists and labor groups were working together. Contact the Labor Federation for sites. http://calaborfed.org Numerous unions including SEIU, Unite/Here and others are holding their own events.

Topics include:

Know Your Rights, Raids at the worksite, at home and in the community. E –Verify, Family Preparedness Plans, sample union contract language and efforts and guidelines for unions in protecting their members. There are good on line resources here http://iamerica.org/ : SEIU : http://www.seiu.org/justice-for-immigrants/

 

There will be a number of rallies, marches and events in California and states of the Southwest during the next week to recognize Cesar Chavez Day. Many of these will be connected to immigrants’ rights work. These offer DSA chapters opportunities to table and distribute DSA Immigrant Rights information including promotion of our work on the Dia Sin Inmigrantes.

In Sacramento the march will be March 25. Another march will be March 31 planned by the California Federation of Teachers.

For information contact antiracism@dsausa.org

 

 

Union teachers organize to oppose Trump anti-immigration efforts

Teachers Will Be a Formidable Force

New York schools have historically been seedbeds of political dissent, but under the Trump administration, the classroom atmosphere has been more charged than ever. Kids wonder if Homeland Security will snatch up their parents at home while they’re in school. And teachers might take a little more care to make sure their trans student can use the right bathroom without getting bullied.

https://www.thenation.com/article/teachers-will-be-a-formidable-force-against-trump/

ICE (1 of 1)-2

California Union teachers organize to keep ICE out of the schools.

http://www.cta.org/forallstudents#toolkit