Trump raids at Ohio meat plants round up union workers
Government agents stand guard alongside suspects taken into custody during an immigration sting at Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in Castalia. U.S. immigration agents made more than 100 arrests June 5 at a gardening and landscaping company, aided by about 200 law enforcement workers in one of the largest employer stings in recent years. Two weeks later, on June 19, more than 100 workers were arrested at Fresh Mark’s meat processing plant in Salem, in northeastern Ohio, following a yearlong immigration investigation. | AP

WASHINGTON—The United Food and Commercial Workers “will provide whatever assistance and counsel we can” to union members among at least 146 workers carted away in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid June 20 at four Fresh Mark meatpacking plants in Ohio, union President Mark Perrone vows.

The raids devastated three communities — Canton, where UFCW Local 17A represents the plant workers and Salem and Massillon, which has two plants. ICE claimed it picked up “146 illegal aliens” in Salem alone.

It was the biggest ICE raid on a meatpacking plant, or plants, in a decade. The raid also plays to GOP President Donald Trump’s base and emphasizes his policy of rounding up alleged undocumented people not just at the U.S.-Mexico border, but anywhere in the nation.

In a June 20 speech in Duluth, Minn., before a carefully chosen GOP crowd, Trump defended his nationwide roundups – including the Ohio raids – by saying otherwise the nation would be “overrun” with immigrants.

But the raid may backfire. The Canton Repository, the local paper, noted Fresh Mark was the first Ohio company to sign up, in 2006, with an ICE program where employers cooperate with the agency in checking workers’ papers.

That includes using the agency’s often-faulty “E-verify” system to weed out allegedly undocumented people. But signing up for the agency’s program and E-verify could imply almost all the workers ICE rounded up are legal. That’s what happened in some prior raids.

Perrone says UFCW will help its members, regardless. He also used the raid to again demand Congress fix the nation’s broken immigration laws. Venal and vicious employers often use ICE raids as union-busting, smashing organizing drives and cowing unionized workers into not exercising their rights.

“Tearing hard-working men and women apart from their children, families, and communities is wrong,” Perrone declared.

“The people who do these incredibly difficult jobs have the right to due process, and to be treated with respect and fairness. Today’s actions will only drive this nation further apart, while spreading unmistakable pain among neighbors, friends, coworkers, and loved ones.

“Our top priority is to provide whatever assistance and counsel we can to any of our impacted members and their families. The broken policies that led to these and other workplace raids must be addressed immediately. They are creating a climate of fear where workers across this country are too afraid to stand up for their rights, report wage theft, dangerous work conditions, and other workplace issues.”

“We urge President Trump and members of Congress to work together to fix our broken immigration system, and to keep the demands of due process and family unity at the forefront. As a nation of immigrants, we must and can do better than this,” he said.

After shocking an awards ceremony crowd by announcing the Ohio raids, Jobs With Justice Executive Director Vanita Gupta put them in a larger context. “These attacks are coming from extremists and politicians who are attacking people based on what they look like, who they love or how much wealth they (don’t) have,” she explained.

ICE’s parent agency, Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, said it had been investigating the Fresh Mark Ohio plants for a year and alleged, without proof, that many of the “illegal aliens” used “fraudulent identification” to get jobs.

“Businesses who knowingly hire illegal aliens as a business model must be held accountable,” DHS said, without saying what it would do to Fresh Mark’s bosses. DHS and ICE said most of those arrested were from Guatemala.

Veronica Dahlberg, founder and executive director of HOLA Ohio, a 20-yer-old agency that helps Latinos in Northern Ohio, told the Repository the “marginalized and vulnerable community” there was devastated. After the raids, the paper reported, parents didn’t come out of their houses and kept their kids indoors, too, for fear of being grabbed by ICE agents.

“It’s like dropping a bomb,” Dahlberg said. “It’s a trauma and catastrophe that will continue.”

UPDATE, JUNE 26: STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM
The U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided three Fresh Mark meat-processing plants in Ohio, represented by the RWDSU. 2,800 people come to these three plants every day to work, but yesterday 140 were detained and separated from their scared families. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union responded:

“We are outraged by the actions of Donald Trump. 140 people couldn’t go home to their families last night, and their children were left on their own to fend for themselves – that is unconscionable. Donald Trump sent in ICE agents to separate hard-working immigrant families in an egregious show of force. Our union is a union of hard-working people, which includes immigrants; and we stand with all immigrant workers, who are trying to support their families and better their lives. Our union will not stand for violence against immigrants; we will not stand for tearing families apart and we will not stand for the terrifying tactics of the Trump Administration. The RWDSU is committed to assisting workers affected by this ICE raid and will continue to fight against any and all heartless attacks on immigrant workers seeking to provide for their families,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

Details on who specifically is being detained are still being clarified in the wake of ICE’s cruel raid. The RWDSU is working to assist families involved. If you have questions regarding a specific person please reach out to JDorismond@RWDSU.org.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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