Why Unions Embraced Immigrants – And Why It Matters for Donald Trump

David Iaconangelo
Christian Science Monitor

After seeming to debut a more forgiving stance on immigration last week, Donald Trump arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday brandishing a resolutely hardline plan, warning of an undocumented criminal menace and promising deportations on an unprecedented scale.

“We will begin moving them out Day One. As soon as I take office. Day One. In joint operation with local, state, and federal law enforcement,” he said, according to transcripts.

As he has in the past, Mr. Trump tied his promise to carry out deportations to anti-globalist economic ideas. But he also drew a direct line between the fortunes of the country’s native-born laborers and the presence of undocumented immigrants – a connection he has rarely made in his remarks on the topic.

“While there are many illegal immigrants in our country who are good people, many, many, this doesn’t change the fact that most illegal immigrants are lower skilled workers with less education, who compete directly against vulnerable American workers, and that these illegal workers draw much more out from the system than they can ever possibly pay back,” he said.

“We will reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, the forgotten people. Workers. We’re going to take care of our workers.”

But the globalization that Trump denounces has also contributed to a decades-long reshaping of unions – a traditional voice for workers, and often vocal opponents of globalization – toward greater inclusion of immigrants, even those without legal status. And the reasons behind organized labor’s shifting stance on immigrant workers, now decades in the making, may undercut Trump’s narrative of foreigners arriving to America to crowd out the native-born. Continue reading

Undocumented Immigrants and the New Gilded Age

by Martin Kich

worker-on-a-scaffold-symbolfoto-for-building-construction-boom-labor-protection-144052165

An article written by David Chen and published in the New York Times  on 26th November included the following statistics on construction-related deaths and injuries in New York City:

“Seven workers have died on the job since July, including three in a nine-day stretch before Labor Day, according to records of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.

“The city’s Buildings Department keeps its own count of construction deaths, injuries and accidents, offering a broader look at safety year over year. There were 10 construction-related fatalities in the most recent fiscal year, from July 2014 to July 2015, according to city figures. In contrast, the annual average over the previous four years was 5.5.

“Meanwhile, 324 workers were injured in the last fiscal year, a jump of 53 percent, and the Buildings Department recorded 314 accidents over all, an increase of 52 percent from the year before. The total was more than two and a half times what the city tallied in 2011. In comparison, permits for new construction projects grew by only 11 percent in the last fiscal year and permits for renovation and other work by 6 percent.”

Because the city is experiencing another building boom, the number of workers employed in construction has increased; so, one might expect some increase in the number of fatalities and injuries on construction sites.

But, as Chen points out, when one examines the cases more closely, it is very clear that many, if not most, of the deaths and injuries are attributable to three easily addressed factors:

1. A very high percentage of those killed and injured have been undocumented immigrants.

2. A very high percentage of those undocumented immigrants have had no training in the building trades.

3. A very high percentage of the deaths and injuries have involved falls or falling objects in which the workers were not taking such basic precautions as wearing safety harnesses or hard hats.

Meanwhile, the fines and other penalties imposed on the construction companies that have employed these undocumented and untrained workers and that have ignored the most basic safety rules for building sites have been extremely minimal. Very clearly, reduced construction costs for the owners of the buildings and increased profits for those doing the building have had priority over enforcing workplace safety laws, requiring certification of even the most basic worker training, and enforcing laws meant to prevent the exploitation of workers who are undocumented immigrants.

And all of this is occurring in New York State, which still has the highest rate of unionization in the nation, with a quarter of the workforce being unionized.

For all of the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the Red states, imagine the level of exploitation of undocumented immigrants that is almost certainly occurring in states such as Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Arizona.

This is what deregulation means. This is what the evisceration of labor law means. This is what comes from the weakening and elimination of labor unions. This is what results from political hypocrisy and the broader failure of the media to perform its most basic function in exposing such hypocrisy.

David Chen’s article is more notable today than it might have been in the relatively recent past not only because labor unions were much stronger and helped to limit such abuses but also because the article represents a type of investigative journalism that is very rapidly disappearing. In July 2014, the Pew Research Center reported that, since 2003, there has been a 53% decline in the number of reporters assigned to cover our statehouses.

The increasing corporatization of American media has paralleled the increasing corporatization of American politics and, of course, the American workplace. The previously maintained, if often tenuous balance between not just the influence but also the values of the corporate world, organized labor, the major political parties, and the media has eroded to the point that corporate influence and values now predominate more than they have had at any time since the beginning of the Progressive Era. The “New Gilded Age” refers to much more than just the increase in income inequality. The phrase highlights a skewing of American values not seen for more than a century in favor of the unchecked creation of material wealth.

David Chen’s complete article is available at:http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/nyregion/rise-in-new-york-construction-deaths-strikes-the-poor-and-undocumented.html?_r=0.

This post first appeared on the Academe Blog (AAUP).

Immigrant workers and Justice for Janitors

We posted a fine piece on Justice for Janitors (below) by Peter Olney and Rand Wilson with suggested lessons for organizing.  Here is a well informed supplement by labor journalist and activist David Bacon.

David Bacon,

jforjr-1This article makes some excellent points, and shows the importance of the way the existing base of membership was used to reorganize building services and start Justice for Janitors. Its point about the market triggers was very interesting – I hadn’t really heard this discussed before, and it does show that putting this in the contract gave workers a concrete reason to support reorganizing the non-union buildings. As it says, ” it was not a ‘blank slate’ campaign disconnected from the sources of SEIU’s membership and contract power.”

Many of the janitors and leaders who fought in Century City were the Central American immigrants coming into LA from the wars. Their experience in their home countries was very important in their willingness to fight, and the use of the tactics of mass demonstrations and even CD in the street. They’re one of the best examples of the way migration, for all the pain it causes migrants, has benefited our labor movement enormously and given us leaders from Rocio Saenz to Ana Martinez to Yanira Merino. This is a big reason why there was an upsurge of organizing in general in LA in the 90s. Without this wave of migration I don’t think the best of strategies would have produced the results we saw. The article credits Gus Bevona with a role in getting the contract in Century City, but by comparison, this seems less important to me, and more like the mechanism than what actually forced the contractors to settle. Continue reading

SEIU Organizes Boston Rally and March for Immigrant Rights

by Paul Garver

fanueil HallSome 800 immigrants and their supporters rallied at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall on April 6 to demand comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship.

The lively and boisterous rally was organized primarily by SEIU and allied community organizations including Jobs with Justice , MassUniting and MIRA (Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition).

SEIU Local 615 President Rocio Saenz,  herself an immigrant from Mexico and a veteran of SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaigns, led the rally. She spoke eloquently of the integral connection of immigrant rights with union rights and human rights.  She also introduced supportive speakers Sen. Elizabeth Warren and new Mass. Congressman Joseph Kennedy III.

Perhaps the most moving speakers were four immigrants of varying ages and countries of origin, one of them herself an Executive Board member of Local 615. who had suffered lengthy separations from their families and loved ones because of arbitrary regulations governing immigration.   No immigration reform issue appeared more important and pressing than easing family reunification.

The population of Massachusetts includes about 320,000 residents with green cards, and another estimated 180,000 without legal permission.  ICE raids remain a constant threat in many Mass. workplaces, as evidenced by raids such as one in New Bedford.   The JFK Federal Building that looms over Fanueil Hall has been the locus of many court-ordered deportations of hard-working residents and family members whose only “crime” was overstaying visas or entering without papers.

From the rally everyone took to the streets to march to the Federal Building to lay carnations as symbols of determination to win immigration reform this time.  Since the Federal Building was only a block away, we took an hour’s long detour assisted by a marching band through downtown historic and shopping districts to get there.  For this day at least, the onlookers were friendly, the police cooperative and amicable. The atmosphere was hopeful and festive. with numerous chants of Si se puede!

The time has come to reclaim the best American tradition of openness to and inclusion of immigrants.

 

 

NLRB Chairman: New Penalties Needed for Union-Busting of Undocumented Workers

By Josh Eidelson

Josh Eidelson

NEW YORK CITY—National Labor Relations Board Chairman Mark Pearce says his agency could pursue new remedies to punish employers who retaliate against undocumented immigrants for organizing. Last year Pearce interpreted a 2002 Supreme Court decision to rule out back pay as a remedy in such cases, limiting the NLRB’s options of financial penalties.

  • Interviewed Friday by Working In These Times, Pearce called the tension between immigration law and labor law “extremely frustrating,” and the tools available for protecting undocumented workers against employer crimes “insufficient.”

“The concept of ‘made whole’ by us needs to be examined,” said Pearce, referring to a legal guideline for NLRB remedies. “Perhaps there are things within that concept that we can utilize. Now I can’t articulate what they are, because we’ve got to consider it.”

Continue reading

Immigrant Hunger Strikers Victorious in Greece

This inspirational victory is detailed in an article by Vagia Lysikatou in the excellent e-bulletin of the Socialist Project (Canada), The Bullet

Utah’s immigration bills – a blast from the past

by David Bacon

David Bacon

Last week the Utah legislature passed three new laws that have been hailed in the media as a new, more reasonable, approach to immigration policy. Reasonable, that is, compared to Arizona’s SB1070, which would allow police to stop anyone, demand immigration papers, and hold her or him for deportation. The Utah bills were signed by Republican Governor Gary Herbert on Tuesday, March 15. Arizona’s SB 1070 is currently being challenged in court.

Utah’s bills were called “the anti-Arizona” by Frank Sharry, head of America’s Voice, a Washington DC immigration lobbying firm. According to Lee Hockstader, on the Washington Post’s editorial staff, the laws are “the nation’s most liberal – and most reality-based – policy on illegal immigration.”

The Utah laws, however, are not new. And they’re certainly not liberal, at least towards immigrants and workers. Labor supply programs for employers, with deportations and diminished rights for immigrants, have marked U.S. immigration policy for more than a hundred years.

Continue reading

Jose Naranjero’s Long Walk To Work

By Alexandra Early

Alexandra Early

I first met Jose Naranjero* in a dusty little Mexican town called Naco, which lies just across the border wall from Bisbee, Arizona. I’d been working in Arizona for a few weeks as a volunteer for No More Deaths, a Tucson-based group that works to protect the lives and human rights of migrants. I was part of a team that left supplies of food and water in the Sonoran desert, where many border crossers have gotten lost and then perished from hunger, thirst, dehydration, and other causes.

In Naco, I retraced the steps of many, back to the door of an immigrant resource center, run by folks from Bisbee, which assists people dumped on the Mexican side after being collared by our Border Patrol. On my second day working in this tiny, crowded facility, two friends of Jose Naranjero showed up looking for him. All three men had tried to enter the U.S. two nights before but had the bad luck to run into “la migra.”

Continue reading

Chicago Unions Seek Better Ties After Clash Over Immigrants

Tiffany Ten Eyck
Labor Notes
http://labornotes.org/node/1978

Leaders of Chicago’s worker centers and unions have been meeting to soothe conflicts over the defense of unionized immigrant workers.

Tensions developed this summer after union members approached a worker center for help with no-match letters from the Social Security Administration. The letters tell employers which employees’ social security numbers don’t match their name and are often used as an excuse to fire immigrant workers.

Continue reading

Gandhi Joins with Martin Luther King: Jobs with Justice National Conference

Here is one ongoing story of struggle by workers against exploitative corporate globalization. It is part of the rich tapestry presented at the Jobs with Justice National Conference in Providence, which assembled several hundred activists from forty local coalitions that campaign for workers’ rights. These delegates, diverse in age, race and culture, shared their organizing experiences and successes, of perseverance in the face of adversity and corporate and political villany. This struggle by Indian workers against their exploitation by the U.S. government’s H2B “guest worker” program is continuing. Continue reading