AFL-CIO president issues ringing call for immigrant rights

Trumka2

CLEVELAND - In a major policy statement at the Cleveland City Club June 18, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said the continual denial of rights to millions of undocumented workers threatens the well-being and democratic values of all Americans.

Denouncing right-wing "politics of hate, scapegoating and finger-pointing," and Arizona's recently passed racial profiling law, Trumka said the crisis facing American workers results from failed trade policies and corporate greed, not immigration.

"When I hear that kind of talk," the AFL-CIO leader declared, "I want to say: Did an immigrant move your plant overseas? Did an immigrant take away your pension? Or cut your health care? Did an immigrant destroy American workers' right to organize? Or crash the financial system? Did immigrant workers write the trade laws that have done so much harm to Ohio?"

The North American Free Trade Agreement, he said, undermined workers' rights in both the U.S. and Mexico and caused illegal immigration to triple.

"The failures of our relationship with Mexico," Trumka said, "cannot be solved with guns and soldiers and fences. They must be addressed through an economic strategy for shared prosperity based on rising wages in both countries."

But, he said, there is "an unpleasant fact" that is not talked about and that lies at the heart of U.S. immigration policy.

"Too many U.S. employers actually like the current state of the immigration system - a system where immigrants are both plentiful and undocumented - afraid and available," Trumka charged. "Too many employers like a system where our borders are closed and open at the same time - closed enough to turn immigrants into second-class citizens, open enough to ensure an endless supply of socially and legally powerless cheap labor."

"That is why the AFL-CIO is fighting to fix this broken immigration system as a crucial element of our broader economic strategy. Because we stand for the American Dream for all who work in our country. Because we are for ending our two-tiered workforce and our two-tiered society. And because an underclass of disenfranchised workers ends up hurting all workers."

Trumka said the labor movement is part of a broad coalition including faith-based and immigrants' rights groups calling for "a fair path towards legalization for all undocumented workers," establishing an independent commission to determine the need for more immigrants, guaranteeing full legal rights to immigrants - including the right to organize - and "real penalties for employers who break the law."

In a time of economic crisis, the voices of hatred and divisiveness cannot be defeated unless political leaders provide "a clear strategy for prosperity in the future - starting with good jobs," Trumka said.

He praised President Obama for his economic recovery program including "rebuilding manufacturing, taking on the challenge of climate change and energy independence, growing exports and investing in our infrastructure, including our education infrastructure."

In addition, Trumka said, the "fundamental human right to organize and bargain with their employers" must be restored. "And we need to make sure every worker in America - documented or undocumented - is protected by our labor laws. That is why it is so urgent that we reform our immigration system."

But, he said, economic policies are not enough.

"We must also change our culture," Trumka said. "We as a nation must be true to our better selves - employers must not make a buck on the backs of workers who live in fear of deportation, and workers must stand together in the workplace for good jobs, safe jobs, health care for all, and retirement security we can count on.

"And so when we talk about making the American Dream real, the labor movement stands for making it real for all of us who do the work of our country. All of us - no matter what we look like, how we worship, who we choose to love, or where we come from."

The full text of Trumka's speech is here.

Photo: Richard Trumka at the 2010 Building and Construction Trades Legislative Conference, April 21. AFL-CIO/Bill Burke/Page One cc 2.0

 

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  • OPEN BORDER TO ANYONE THAT COMES. WHO BROKE THE LAW? THIS LAND WAS STOLE FROM THOSE THAT WERE HERE.....THE KING HAS ALWAYS HAD SLAVES, NOW IT IS THE MULTI-NATION CORPORATIONS..
    FORD AND TAYLOR -TIME. THE WAGNER ACT (NEVER IMPROVED). MEDICARE (NEVER IMPROVED). SOCIAL SECURITY (NEVER SET-ASIDE FOR RETIREMENT ONLY)
    FIRED AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLERS (UNION-BUSTING)
    NAFTA GIVES MEXICANS,AMERICANS,CANADIANS THE RIGHT TO TRADE-CARDS(WORK PERMIT)
    ROBOTS CAN DO MANY JOBS....CLEAN FLOORS,ETC.
    EIGHT-HOUR WORK DAY IS 150years OLD.....WHY NOT 4 hours for 8 hour PAY? instead of a $ a day....

    thanx for your work

    Posted by j. h, 07/11/2010 7:55am (4 years ago)

  • You can tell this fat guy never missed a meal like so many unemployed Americans while he defend the so-called "rights" of illegal aliens to steal into our nation and steal jobs, social services and anything else that's not nailed down. We have over 240,000 illegal alien sex offenders in this nation and they know full well that they will at LEAST rape ONE MILLION women and children before they're caught...if they're caught.

    15 million Americans out of work, while this toad defends illegal aliens who take our jobs. You greedy POS...this is all about union dues and YOUR wallet...and you know it...so do we.

    I was a union member and lifelong supporter...until this bs of defending illegal aliens instead of Americans started. Never again.

    Rich, you're just trying to line your pockets and everyone knows it.

    Posted by ContraryMary, 06/23/2010 3:48pm (5 years ago)

  • This speech should be read in its entirety via the link provided in the article, and distributed far and wide. We should also get it out in Spanish. It is of a piece with Trumka's valuable statement on race and racism in the context of the 2008 elections. George Meany must be doing back-flips in his grave!

    Go Trumka!

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 06/22/2010 11:54pm (5 years ago)

  • Trumka made a very good speach. Even better than Rcik reports. One important thought was left out. During the Q&A, someone asked if the AFL-CIO, which narrowly lost a fight to unseat Blue Dog Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln, would support her in the November elections, to help preserve the Democrat's majority?

    Trumkla said, "First of all, we don't support Democrats. We support people who support workers. And Blanche Lincoln will be one of those people [we don't support]."

    Given her consistent anti-worker record, "I can't imagine us supporting her in the fall election. And as far as her getting defeated, it's just another anti-worker politician that won't be in the Senate."

    Would appear that labor is re-discovering how to support only Democrtats who support labor, but without being part of the Democratic Party and supporting every Democrat. We shoul do no less.

    Posted by John Gallo, 06/22/2010 8:27pm (5 years ago)

  • opps ! Viva Trumka, VENCEREMOS

    Posted by Al Stola, 06/22/2010 3:36pm (5 years ago)

  • Viva Trumka ! veneremos

    Posted by Al Stola, 06/22/2010 3:33pm (5 years ago)

  • Yes, illegal immigration is caused by the expropriating aspect of rapacious capitalism.

    So, largely, is homelessness.

    SO THE DAY I see the no-borders apologists throw open the doors of their own houses to whichever homeless folks want to move in, while agitating for the right to more spare rooms as the "real" solution to the problem, that WILL BE THE DAY when I'll believe that YOU believe that what you advocate will improve the lives of American workers -- instead of just exacerbating their immiseration and insecurity, and thus, some propose, making them more "revolutionary".


    But not until then.

    Posted by Trailer Trash, 06/22/2010 1:28pm (5 years ago)

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