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Bacon Ignores Treacherous Role Of AFL-CIO/SEIU/UFWA/FLOC In Pushing Slave Labor Bill
Journalist David Bacon ignored the treacherous role of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, UFWA and FLOC in pushing a slave labor bill SB 744. The good journalist apparently forgot to mention that the top union leaderships made a deal with the US Chamber of Commerce to bring in slave workers to the US and to allow the hiring of 20,00 more ICE agents and militarization of the border with another $50 billion.
Bacon Ignores Treacherous Role Of AFL-CIO/SEIU/UFWA/FLOC In Pushing Slave Labor Bill
Viewpoint: Immigration Bill’s New Bracero Program Will Hurt Farmworkers
October 03, 2013 / David Baconenlarge or shrink textlogin or register to comment
Migrant farmworkers stopped work at Sakuma Farms in Washington state to raise the piece rate for picking—and to try to stop the grower from replacing them with contract guestworkers from Mexico. The Sakuma Farms workers are mostly indigenous Mixtec and Triqui migrants from Oaxaca and southern Mexico, who now live in the U.S. Guestworker programs give employers leverage to pit workers against each other. Photo: David Bacon.
This Saturday immigrant rights groups will rally in many cities to demand immigration reform. Some are asking the House of Representatives to pass a bill similar to the one passed by the Senate in June (S. 744). The Republican leadership in the House has refused to hold such a vote.
There is no question that we need immigration reform. Eleven million people have no legal status. Four hundred thousand are deported every year. Hundreds of thousands of workers have been fired because they’re undocumented. But as we push for reform, we need to look closely at what’s actually on the table. We need a reality check.
One of the most important parts of the Senate’s bill, and of all the “comprehensive immigration reform” proposals, is a big increase in guestworker programs. Employers demand them as a price for supporting legalization of the undocumented. But our history tells us that this is a very high price. Especially for farmworkers, guestworker programs have been a terrible idea.
Most media coverage of immigration accepts as fact the claims by growers that they can’t get enough workers to harvest crops. Agribusiness wants a new guestworker program, and complaints of a labor shortage are their justification. But a little investigation of the actual unemployment rate in farmworker communities leads to a different picture.
The labor shortage is largely a fiction. I’ve spent over a decade traveling through California valleys and have yet to see fruit rotting because of a lack of labor to pick it. I have seen some pretty miserable conditions for workers, though.
The wages these families earn are barely enough to survive. As Abe Lincoln said, “Labor creates all wealth”—but farmworkers get precious little of it. Farmworkers are worse off today than they’ve been for over two decades.
Labor Shortage a Myth
Twenty-five years ago, at the height of the influence of the United Farm Workers, union contracts guaranteed twice the minimum wage of the time. Today, the hourly wage in almost every farm job is the minimum wage—$8 an hour in California, $7.25 elsewhere under federal law. If wages had kept up with that UFW base rate, farmworkers today would be making $16 an hour. But they’re not.
If there were a labor shortage so acute that growers were having a hard time finding workers, they would be raising wages to make the jobs more attractive. But they aren’t.
In fact, despite claims of no workers, rural unemployment is high. Today’s unemployment rate in Delano, birthplace of the UFW, is 30 percent. Last year in the Salinas Valley, the nation’s salad bowl, it swung between 12 and 22 percent.
Yet growers want to be able to bring workers into the country on guestworker visas that say they have to work at close to minimum wage in order to stay, and must be deported if they are out of work longer than a brief time.
The industry often claims that if it doesn’t get this, consumers will have to pay a lot more for fruit and vegetables. But low wages haven’t kept prices low. The supermarket price of fruit has more than doubled in the last two decades.
Unions Make the Difference
Low wages have a human cost. Families live in cramped trailers, or packed like sardines in apartments and garages, with many people sleeping in a single room.
Over the last half-century, growers have demolished most of their old labor camps for migrant workers. These were never great places to live, but having no place is worse.
Today migrant workers often live in cars, sometimes even sleeping in the fields or under the trees.
In past years I’ve seen children working in fields in northern Mexico, but this year I saw them working here too. When families bring their kids to work, it’s not because they don’t value their education or future. It’s because they can’t make ends meet with the labor of adults alone.
What would make a difference?
Unions would. The UFW pushed wages up decades ago, getting the best standard of living California farmworkers ever received. But growers have been implacably hostile to union organizing. For guestworkers and undocumented workers alike, joining a union or demanding rights can mean risking not just firing but deportation.
Enforcing the existing law would also better workers’ lives. California Rural Legal Assistance does a heroic job inspecting field conditions and helping workers understand their rights. But that’s an uphill struggle too. According to the Indigenous Farm Worker Survey, a third of the workers surveyed still get paid less than the minimum. Many are poisoned with pesticides, suffer from heat exhaustion, and work in illegal conditions.
Give workers real legal status. Farmworkers need a permanent residence visa, not a guestworker visa conditioned on their employment. This would ensure their right to organize without risking deportation. Organization in turn would bring greater equality, stability, and recognition of their important contributions—not to mention higher pay.
Don’t Repeat a Bad Idea
But growers don’t want to raise wages to attract labor. Instead, they want workers on temporary visas, not permanent ones—a steady supply of people who can work but can’t stay, or who get deported if they become unemployed. This is a repeat of the old, failed bracero program of the 1940s and ’50s and of today’s H2A guestworker visa program.
The H2A program mandates a guestworker wage that supposedly doesn’t undermine existing wages, called an “adverse effect” wage rate. The highest in the country is in Washington State—$12/hour, $2.81 above the state’s minimum. In effect, however, it functions as a ceiling on wages for all farmworkers, since growers can replace them with workers at that “adverse effect” wage.
The Senate bill would lower that wage to $9.64. Some bills in the House would take it down even further. None of these wages allow a family to live a decent life.
With a temporary labor program, farm wages will not rise. Instead, farmworkers will continue to subsidize agribusiness with their low wages, in the name of keeping agriculture “competitive.” Strikes and unions that raise family income will be regarded as a threat.
We’ve seen this before. During the bracero program, when resident workers struck, growers brought in braceros. And if braceros struck, they were deported. That’s why Cesar Chavez, Ernesto Galarza, and Bert Corona finally convinced Congress to end the program in 1964. The UFW’s first grape strike began the year after the bracero law was repealed.
Today immigrant workers who already live in the U.S., like those who recently held a strike at Washington State’s Sakuma Berry Farms, are being pitted against modern-day braceros brought in under the H2A program. Ryan Sakuma says he won’t pay strikers more than he’s paying the H2A workers, and sometimes offers even less. Workers fear that if they protest, they won’t get hired for next year’s picking season, and others will take their places.
Farmworkers perform valuable work and need healthy conditions and security, not an immigration reform that will keep them in poverty. Giving employers another bracero program is a failed idea, one we shouldn’t repeat. Farm jobs that can support families is a better one.
While we’re out demonstrating for immigration reform on October 5, we can help the Sakuma Berry Farms strikers by boycotting the two customers who are buying the berries—Haagen Dasz ice cream and Driscoll berries. For more information, go here.
David Bacon is a California writer and photographer and was a union organizer for two decades. His new book, The Right to Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Mexican Migration, was just published by Beacon Press.
- See more at: http://www.labornotes.org/2013/10/viewpoint-immigration-bills-new-bracero-program-will-hurt-farmworkers#sthash.OxLxFOIQ.dpuf
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO
And the Fight for Immigrant Rights
UNITED FRONT FOR JUSTICE AND DIGNITY
Email: Al Rojas
- - - - -
Statement by the United Front for Justice and Dignity:
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO
And the Fight for Immigrant Rights
On September 10 at its national convention in Los Angeles, the
leadership of the AFL-CIO -- making use of bureaucratic procedures and
subterfuge rarely seen even at these gatherings -- pushed adoption of
Resolution #4 on Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), thus
reversing the progressive positions on immigration policy that the
federation had adopted 14 years earlier.
At its national convention in Los Angeles in 1999, the labor
federation had adopted resolutions in support of amnesty/legalization
for all undocumented workers in the U.S., and in opposition to border
militarization, employer sanctions, and "guest-worker" programs of any
Resolution #4 in the 2013 convention packet calls for support to the
five pillars of CIR as developed by former Secretary of Labor Ray
Marshall and as worked out in common between the AFL-CIO leadership
and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These five points are all written in
very broad, and cryptic, language -- and as such might not seem
objectionable: path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented
immigrants, "rational operational control of the border," "improvement
of temporary worker programs," as well as other provisions that "are
on the side of justice ... and strengthen our democracy."
But they are objectionable because Resolution #4 -- with its
endorsement of these five points of CIR -- has given the AFL-CIO
leadership a convention mandate to continue campaigning for Obama's
immigration "reform" policies and, specifically, for Senate bill S.744
-- a CIR bill that hurts immigrant communities.
S.744 is a "border security first" bill based on an unacceptable
tradeoff: a path to citizenship promised to 11 million undocumented
immigrants over a 13-year period (with countless obstacles that will
likely see fewer than 2 million to 3 million people reaching the
finish line) in exchange for the stepped-up militarization of the
border (in fact, the Senate is allotting $50 billion to "seal" the
border), increased repression against new undocumented immigrants
and/or current immigrants who do not have continuous employment over
the 13-year span, and a supposedly new and improved "guest-worker"
It is an unfixable and unamendable bill, as it was crafted,
essentially, to meet the objectives of the corporations.
Nowhere in Resolution #4 -- and at no time during the AFL-CIO
convention proceedings -- was there any mention of S.744. At no point
did the AFL-CIO top officials call their resolution by its real name:
a path toward endorsing S.744. They had to resort to sleight of hand
to hide their true objective. But they could not hide it totally.
Speaking at an immigration reform press conference the morning of the
AFL-CIO convention vote, Maria Elena Durazo, executive director of the
Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and chairperson of the
AFL-CIO's Committee on Immigration Reform, admitted to labor activists
who challenged her on this question that, yes, the AFL-CIO supports
"The AFL-CIO leadership demonstrated its outright deceitful behavior
and manipulation of the honorable intentions of the delegates," stated
Nativo López, a long-time leader of Hermandad Mexicana and former
national president of the Mexican American Political Association
(MAPA), one of the oldest immigrant rights' organizations in the
country. "When I read Resolution #4, I concluded that I, too, would
have risen to speak in favor and vote for its passage. The wording was
as if crafted by one of us, and nothing was said about S.744 and the
current legislative battle in the U.S. Congress or the maneuvers to
have the House vote on the Senate version filled with anti-labor
Ron Gochez, a member of United Teachers of Los Angeles and of Union
del Barrio put it this way: "S.744 is anti-worker, anti-union, and
inhumane. How can the AFL-CIO support the militarization of the border
that has already claimed over 10,000 lives in the last 15 years? ...
The majority of our union brothers and sisters are well-intentioned
and do support a real immigration reform, but they are being misled by
the national union leadership, which is obviously loyal to the party
line of the Democratic Party."
S.744 and "Guest-Worker" Programs
Clearly, mention of S.744 in the convention resolution would have
generated a heated, and necessary, floor debate. Convention delegates
would have been able to discuss whether the provisions included in the
Senate legislation to get labor's support -- for example, the
"improvement" of the "guest-worker" programs -- were real or whether
they were simple window-dressing. They could have discussed whether
the attempts by the AFL-CIO to fix the bill through such provisions as
the POWER Act, the "Hoffman Plastics fix," or the inclusion of
due-process under E-Verify in any way changed the pro-corporate
character of the Senate bill.
Take the issue of "guest-worker" programs, for example. In her answer
to the challenge by Sacramento LCLAA Vice President Al Rojas and other
labor activists who approached her following the convention press
conference, Maria Elena Durazo insisted that "S.744 is not an
expansion of the 'guest-worker' programs; it's the exact opposite!"
She added, "S.744 gives visas to 'guest workers' that allows
portability from job to job; it also puts them on the track for a path
Is this true? No, it's not.
Point 1: S.744 expands "guest-worker" visas -- through a new "W" visa
-- to all service industries, not just farm labor. Many more workers
will be covered by this program than by the current H2A visas.
Point 2: To make the "guest-worker" programs more palatable, the
architects of S.744 (the union officialdom, the Chamber of Commerce,
and the "Gang of 8" Senators -- four Democrats and four Republicans)
added a clause allowing "guest workers" to move from one employer to
another. Hence the word "portability."
But how "portable" is it when a "guest worker" is dissatisfied with a
first employer and seeks out employment elsewhere, only to be
blacklisted. Without any legal or labor rights, to whom can this
worker turn to seek redress of grievance? No one!
Point 3: Lastly, how much of a "path to citizenship" is it when a
"guest worker" seeking a new employer is out of work for any
protracted period of time? Under the onerous provisions established in
S.744, any prolonged break in employment could mean forfeiting one's
right to remain in line for citizenship papers, followed by
But all this is really besides the point; the fact is that labor
should not be supporting "guest-worker" programs to begin with!
The farm growers -- with the backing of the Chamber of Commerce --
claim that there is a labor shortage in their industry, which is why
they need low-paid temporary workers from abroad. The hotel and
restaurant industry has followed suit with the same claim. But this is
a bold-face lie. Today the unemployment rate in Delano, Calif.,
birthplace of the United Farm Workers of America, is 30%. in the
Salinas Valley region of California, known as the "salad bowl," the
unemployment rate hovers between 12% and 22%. Across the country,
there are 27 million unemployed and under-employed workers yearning to
find a job.
The growers claim that workers here are not willing to take these
low-paying and hazardous jobs. There's a reason for this. According to
the Indigenous Farm Worker Survey, a third of the workers surveyed
still get paid less than minimum wage. Many are poisoned with
pesticides, suffer from heat exhaustion, and work in illegal
conditions. (3) It is understandable why people may not want to toil
under conditions that kill dozens of farm workers every year.
The fact is that no one should be working in such inhumane conditions.
Another fact is that the large pool of the unemployed would work in
these various sectors of industry, commerce and agriculture if wages
and working conditions were decent. So what is the solution?
Labor journalist David Bacon put it best when he wrote,
"Give workers real legal status. Farm workers need a permanent
residence visa, not a 'guest-worker' visa conditioned on their work
status. This would ensure their right to organize without risking
deportation. Organization in turn would bring greater equality,
stability and recognition of their important contribution. It would
bring higher earnings.
"But growers don't want to raise wages to attract labor. Instead, they
want workers on temporary visas, not permanent ones -- a steady supply
of people who can work, but can't stay, or who get deported if they
become unemployed. This is a repeat of the old, failed Bracero program
of the 1940s and 50s, or the current failures of today's H2A visa
program that succeeded it." (4)
A second-class status for immigrant workers is reprehensible, unjust
and anti-labor -- whatever the face-lift given to the new
"guest-worker" programs. It is shameful that the AFL-CIO leadership
has reversed its previous opposition to these programs through its new
partnership with the Chamber of Commerce.
Nativo López was on point when he stated, "Ernesto Galarza, César
Chavez, Congressman Edward Roybal, and Burt Corona -- each of whom in
their own right and at their own time fought against the old Bracero
programs -- are all turning over in the graves."
Another Sleight of Hand: "Subsuming" Resolution #23
The purposely ambiguous language in Resolution #4, however, was not
sufficient to lure the delegates into voting for a resolution that
turned its back 180 degrees on the resolutions adopted by the AFL-CIO
in 1999. Another piece of bureaucratic maneuvering was necessary.
The convention booklet of "Proposed Resolutions and Constitutional
Amendments" actually contained two resolutions on immigration reform:
one (Resolution #4) submitted by the AFL-CIO Executive Council, and
another (Resolution #23) submitted by the Alameda (Calif.) County
Central Labor Council.
The general line of Resolution #23 was in keeping with the 1999
convention resolution and stood in stark opposition to S.744 and the
resolution submitted by the Executive Council. Resolution #23 called
for "the protection of the right to organize for all workers, the
repeal of employer sanctions, and opposition to 'guest-worker'
programs." It called for "a path to citizenship not contingent upon
border security" -- in open contradiction to the CIR principles and
Resolution #23 also called for "the end of enforcement programs such
as Secure Communities and racial and ethnic profiling" and "reject[ed]
the use of electronic employment verification systems, such as
E-verify, which builds upon the flawed employer sanctions and pushes
workers into an underground economy where workplace abuses are
And finally, Resolution #23 called for "immigration reform that will
address the root causes of forced migration by reforming our
international trade policies to protect workers and families of all
But rather than allow a democratic discussion of resolutions with two
contradictory orientations, Maria Elena Durazo, on behalf of the
AFL-CIO leadership, announced that Resolution #23 was now being
"subsumed" under Resolution #4.
Most delegates understood this to mean that the federation leadership
would incorporate the main points of Resolution #23 into their
resolution. In fact, many of the delegates who rose to speak in the
discussion under this point, motivated support for Resolution #4 using
arguments and points culled from Resolution #23 -- that is, in
opposition to Resolution #4 and S.744.
This was the case, for example, of Vermont State AFL-CIO
Secretary-Treasurer Traven Leyshon, who supported Resolution #4
stating, in part:
"We should be organizing for a humane road-map not contingent on some
repugnant border security measures! And insure that any real reform
guarantees full labor and workplace rights for all workers. Finally we
need to reverse the root causes of forced migration: trade policies
that say to our brothers and sisters, 'starve at home or come here'."
The AFL-CIO leadership had no intention of adopting any of the
language contained in Resolution #23. "Subsuming" was nothing but a
ruse to give the impression that language from Resolution #23 would be
accepted, while actually killing Resolution #23 and preventing a
discussion of its content. (5)
Nativo López of MAPA and Hermandad Mexicana put it this way:
"Delegate after delegate at the AFL-CIO convention rose to speak of
the need to fight for immigration reform, integrate the undocumented
into the house of labor, and fight for their inclusion and oppose
exclusion, and to stop the deportations. One sister delegate broke
into tears as she spoke, lauding the courage of the Dreamer youth and
their acts of civil disobedience.
"The delegates were clearly duped by the leadership, were poorly
educated about the leadership's real-life position in practice, and
did not realize that Resolution #23 had been killed in committee.
Resolution #23 being subsumed into Resolution #4 was the death of the
"The leadership had to stoop to knavery to get its way and avoid a
healthy debate. This type of manipulation is an indication of the
internal crisis in the labor movement. Is it any wonder why the
percentage of the workforce organized under labor's house is the
lowest since the 1880s, when workers were still fighting for the
Al Rojas -- one of the early organizers and leaders of the United Farm
Workers of America, along with César Chávez, and an officer in
Sacramento LCLAA -- offered a similar assessment and pointed to the
main reason for the labor leadership's undemocratic functioning and
pro-corporate orientation: labor's continued subordination to the
Democratic Party. He stated:
"What the central leaders of the AFL-CIO did with Resolution #23 was
deceitful. They manipulated the healthy aspiration of convention
delegates and union members to be on the side of their immigrant
sisters and brothers into supporting a resolution, and a Senate bill,
that were crafted in common with the Chamber of Commerce and the
bosses ... against immigrant workers and all working people. This
position flows from their subordination to the Democratic Party and
their deepening, and extremely dangerous, drift toward corporatism.
"Maria Elena Durazo told the convention press conference that labor
was proud of its collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce in
crafting this so-called immigration reform. [AFL-CIO President
Richard] Trumka said the same thing in his opening convention press
conference, going so far as to present this collaboration as an
example of the kind of 'labor-management partnerships' that are needed
in many more sectors of our economy.
"But we say 'No'! Labor's interests and those of the Chamber of
Commerce are diametrically opposed! Labor must act solely in the
interests of its members and of the working class. It must break its
ties of subordination to the Democratic Party and its partnerships
with the bosses!"
Stop the Deportations, Deferred Action for All Undocumented Immigrants!
Despite the duplicity of the top officials of the AFL-CIO, there were
many signs of hope and fightback expressed both by the delegates and
allies of the labor movement attending the convention.
Because of the bureaucratic shenanigans, the convention vote in
support of Resolution #4 was unanimous. But support for anti-immigrant
legislation such as that contained in S.744 was anything but
unanimous. In fact, most of the delegates and labor allies who spoke
on the issue at the convention or during the AFL-CIO's own press
conference put forward views in opposition to S.744 and in support of
a truly just and dignified immigration reform.
We have already referred to the delegates who spoke from the
convention floor in support of Resolution #4 with arguments taken from
Resolution #23. But the same is true of the AFL-CIO's labor and
community partners who were asked to speak at the September 10 early
morning press conference.
Bhairavi Desai, a leader of the New York National Taxi Cab Alliance
(and now newly elected member of the AFL-CIO national Executive
Council), told the press: "We need an immigration reform that is
dignified, not one of indentured servitude, one that recognizes that
citizenship has already been earned."
In an interview with Labor Video Project, Sister Desai went a step
further, stating that, "the Senate bill [i.e., S.744] is not good
enough and is not dignified. ... The movement needs to push back to
get a better bill." (6)
Sister Desai is right: We don't need indentured servitude such as
contained in "guest-worker" programs. And, yes, citizenship has
already been earned -- so there is no need to wait up to 13 years and
jump through hoops to gain citizenship!
Neidi Dominguez, the past strategic campaign coordinator of the Los
Angeles Car Wash Campaign, also addressed the AFL-CIO press
conference, where she stated that "all the 11 million undocumented
immigrants, and not just the Dreamers, should get DACA!" -- meaning
Deferred Action, or citizenship papers. This call for Deferred Action
for All Undocumented Immigrants is precisely one that MAPA has been
agitating for in the recent period.
But perhaps the most important statement at the press conference came
from Tefere Gebre, past executive director of the Orange County
(Calif.) Labor Council and newly elected vice president of the AFL-CIO
(replacing Arlene Holt Baker in this position).
Brother Gebre stated that no one knows whether Comprehensive
Immigration Reform will be approved by this Congress given the
"obstructionist role" of many of the Republicans in the House. And he
added, "No matter what happens in the Congress, we know this:
President Obama could use his authority as president to issue an
Executive Order to halt all deportations today!"
CIR Implodes in the Congress, Opening for Broad, United Front Campaign
This is absolutely true. In fact, Comprehensive Immigration Reform now
appears all but dead for this year. House Democrat Luis Gutierrez, one
of the main promoters on CIR, told the Washington Post on September 20
that the House CIR bill crafted by a "Group of 7" legislators "never
got the support of the GOP leadership." He continued, "I don't believe
we're going to produce a bill anytime soon."
The Republican House leadership, under pressure from its Tea Party
wing, opposed the proposed bill on the grounds that even a 13-year
path to citizenship with its myriad hurdles and impossible demands is
tantamount to "amnesty" for the so-called "illegals." They vowed to
support only the border security and employer sanctions provisions of
Even though Gutierrez and the House Democrats made even more
concessions to the Republicans than the Democrats did in the Senate,
their CIR proposal was still unacceptable to the GOP leadership. (The
House CIR bill required that "undocumented immigrants would have to
admit that they broke the law," and, as such, even more onerous
conditions were placed on them during a "15-year probationary
Any hope of salvaging a deal over CIR in the House appeared doomed to
fail when two Texas Republicans, Representatives Sam Johnson and John
Carter, announced they were leaving the "Group of 7" because
"President Obama has not enforced current law" (a reference to Obama's
decision "to suspend deportations of hundreds of thousands of
immigrants brought illegally to this country as children"), and
because they did not believe that the President would enforce new
In a word, the entire CIR framework imploded.
At the 11th hour, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-SF) announced
Sept. 24 her intention to introduce in the House -- possibly by Oct.
5, a day slated for national actions in support of Comprehensive
Immigration Reform -- a look-alike S.744 legislation (minus the
"border surge" language added at the last minute to S.744), combined
with a bipartisan border-security bill that was adopted unanimously by
the House Homeland Security Committee.
In the face of the failure after many months to produce a compromise
bill in the House, Pelosi's effort appears to be mainly about
political theatrics and finger-pointing: demonstrating the Democrats'
commitment to CIR and blaming the Republicans for their obstinate
opposition. Pelosi's legislation is being introduced with no
bipartisan façade and has been pronounced as dead-on-arrival by key
Given this impasse in the Congress and the political void it has
created, and given the huge anger from below over the more than
400,000 yearly deportations under Obama, far more than under George W.
Bush, the top officials of the trade union movement realize that
something must be done to address this untenable situation.
Ana Avedaño, director of immigration and community action at the
AFL-CIO, put it this way in a press statement published by Associated
Press on Sept. 19. "If Congress doesn't move, the President has a duty
to act," she said. "Just because the Republicans have buried their
heads in the sand doesn't mean that immigrant communities aren't
feeling the sting of constant deportations."
The statements by Brother Gebre and now Ana Avedaño provide a big
opening to build broad-based, united-front coalitions and actions,
with labor playing a leadership role, to demand of Obama: Stop the
Deportations Now! Deferred Action for All Undocumented Immigrants!
Labor and immigrant rights' activists need to press the AFL-CIO
leadership to match deeds with words. We cannot allow these calls on
Obama to remain just lip service, or at best an occasional press
release. We need to make this a nationwide call to action!
It will be an uphill battle, but we can prevail.
Obama and the White House rejected the call by labor and immigrant
rights' groups to unilaterally stop deportations and extend Deferred
Action to the millions awaiting legalization. White House spokesperson
Bobby Whithorne told a press conference on Sept. 19 that, "The
President will not take any further steps. That's it. Full stop. The
only way to bring 11 million undocumented individuals out of the
shadow economy is for Congress to pass common-sense reform with an
earned path to citizenship."
The very next day Obama told Telemundo that such an executive action
[for Deferred Action] was "not an option."
But as Gabriel Camacho, an organizer with the Campaign for a Humane
Immigration Policy (CHIP), noted in a commentary on Sept. 20, what
Obama does or does not do can change very quickly depending on
political circumstances and, above all, on what masses of people are
able to do in the streets to press for their demands.
"The second-term president said that he does not have the authority to
grant Deferred Action, nor to stop the deportations," Camacho stated.
"But this is the same president who miraculously discovered that he
had the authority to grant temporary legal status to undocumented
youth under DACA during his re-election campaign."
And Camacho concluded:
"As long as legislative advocacy is framed on one end, on how to get
Republican votes, and on the other end, on how do we curry favor with
the Democratic Party, humane immigration reform will never be
achieved. As in every successful social movement, the most affected
must lead the struggle -- not the Beltway experts and strategists."
Join Us in Building the United Front For Justice and Dignity!
On Saturday, September 7, one day before the opening of the AFL-CIO
convention, more than 100 labor and community activists met at the
hall of United Teachers of Los Angeles at an Immigrant Rights
Convention convened by the United Front for Justice and Dignity. The
activists represented 40 different worker-based and community-based
The purpose of the convention was two-fold: to adopt a Platform of the
United Front, amending a Draft that was submitted by the core
organizers of the convention, and to lay out a perspective for
intervening in the AFL-CIO convention and influencing the delegates to
support genuine immigration reform, not the anti-immigrant S.744.
A truly passionate and democratic discussion took place over one day
of deliberations. The convention participants adopted a final Platform
and a Model Resolution to be distributed widely to the AFL-CIO
convention delegates [see Model Resolution for a Just Immigration
Reform below], and they discussed proposals for addressing the
delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention. (7)
On September 8, the AFL-CIO leadership held a day-long Diversity
Conference as the first event of its convention activities. Supporters
of the United Front for Justice and Dignity were out in force at the
Diversity Conference to express their opposition to S.744 and their
support for the planks in their Platform. They also urged the
conference participants and convention delegates to support Resolution
# 23, the immigration reform resolution submitted by the Alameda
County Central Labor Council.
Two supporters of the United Front, Elliot Gabriel and Marc Rich,
addressed the Diversity Conference plenary session, receiving warm
applause from the approximately 800 labor and community activists who
Elliott Gabriel, an organizer with the Colectivo Todo el Poder al
Pueblo, reported on the United Front for Justice and Dignity's
Platform proposals discussed at his table, stating:
"The AFL-CIO and its community partners need to fight for an immediate
end to raids and deportations, No to the militarization of the borders
and our communities, No to new Bracero/Guest Workers Programs (modern
indentured servitude). Workers must have the unconditional legal right
to organize. Legalization for all.
"We need to fight for a just and humane immigration reform that
eliminates the terror and anxiety in our communities, respects and
protects the human rights of undocumented workers, and eliminates the
injustices our families face. Support Resolution 23!"
For his part, Marc Rich, a retired teacher and former delegate to the
Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, reported on the newspaper
headline for the near future that his table was asked to create. He
stated: "Entire Labor Movement, Led by the AFL-CIO, Proclaims Its
Independence from Corporate Influence over Immigration Policy. As a
Result, Former Undocumented Workers Work Freely with Union Protection
Throughout the U.S.!":
At the end of the Diversity Conference, as the participants were
leaving the hall, supporters of the United Front unfurled their
banners in opposition to "guest-worker" programs, employer sanctions,
border militarization, and deportations. They also chanted, "Support
Resolution #23, For Justice and Dignity!"
Supporters of the United Front for Justice and Dignity who
participated in the Diversity Conference were automatically invited as
guests at the AFL-CIO convention, where they distributed thousands of
leaflets to the delegates urging a vote for the positions contained in
Resolution #23. They even even put together a last-minute banner
urging support for Resolution #23.
Needless to say, United Front for Justice and Dignity activists were
sorely disappointed with the shameful role of the AFL-CIO leadership
and the outcome of the debate. But they also realized that despite the
bureaucratic maneuvers, the positions they had adopted at their
Immigrant Rights Convention on September 7 had received a very
positive response from the AFL-CIO convention delegates and from
labor's community allies. And they understood the huge contradictions
and crisis in the house of labor that opened new opportunities for
united front work around the demand to stop all deportations today.
Strengthened by this resolve, supporters of the United Front for
Justice and Dignity will be holding public forums across California
and beyond to present their platform and to build a truly powerful and
independent labor-community movement to press for the rights of all
immigrant workers, documented and undocumented. In the coming weeks
and months, they will be focused on building united-front coalitions
and mass actions to demand that Obama use his executive authority to
take action on behalf of the undocumented immigrants.
"Because Comprehensive Immigration Reform is now on its death bed,"
stated Ron Gochez of Union del Barrio, "we in the United Front for
Justice and Dignity call on the AFL-CIO, in particular, to join us in
pressuring President Obama to immediately stop all deportations until
there is an immigration reform. President Obama cannot continue to
stand idle while millions of workers are being deported under his
administration. Obama can blame the Republicans for stalling
immigration reform, but he cannot blame them for the record number of
deportations. We call on President Obama to stop the deportations and
to grant Differed Action to all undocumented workers until there is a
true immigration reform in this country that provides citizenship for
all working-class people."
* * * * * * * * * *
(1) See video footage taken by Labor Video Project of the challenge by
Al Rojas, vice president of the Sacramento chapter of the Labor
Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), and the reply by Maria
Elena Durazo on this question. The link is:
(2) This provision, in fact, applies to all undocumented immigrants
seeking citizenship status. Under S.744, according to a summary of the
bill done by the Dignity Campaign, "[a] single person would have to
make $14,362 to keep their provisional status, so even losing a few
weeks a year could make them ineligible, or force them to work
excessive hours to maintain this salary. Getting fired would be
disastrous, making joining unions or advocating for rights extremely
risky. And of course, millions of single parents supporting children,
clearly wouldn't qualify, since a family of four would have to keep an
income of $29,437 to maintain status. That's more than two full-time
minimum wage jobs." (source: Dignity Campaign Response to Senate
Immigration Reform Bill - S.744)
(3) Source: "A New Bracero Program Will Hurt Farm Workers," by labor
journalist David Bacon, New American Media, September 16, 2013
(4) David Bacon, Ibid.
(5) If anyone were to doubt the nefarious role of "subsuming," there
is a precedent that sheds further light on this matter. On June 10,
the San Francisco Labor Council adopted a resolution on Building an
Independent Labor Movement that it submitted for a vote and discussion
at the 2013 AFL-CIO convention.
This resolution warned that "labor has been diverted from the struggle
for an independent labor movement by the countless calls for 'shared
sacrifice' promoted by the employers and politicians in their service.
Having accepted the framework of 'shared sacrifice' has led labor to
water down our demands and make compromises that have impeded us from
mounting a powerful independent fightback movement, in alliance with
our community partners, capable of rolling back the anti-worker
assault and wresting concessions from the corporate class."
The resolution went on to urge the building of "an independent labor
movement ... [that] never subordinates the interests and needs of the
working class to the dictates of politicians of either major party, as
these politicians all too often defer to the corporate class."
The S.F. Labor Council was never printed in the Resolutions booklet.
Council delegates were told that the convention Resolutions Committee
had "subsumed" their resolution into the main resolutions presented by
the Executive Council to the convention. But not a trace of the S.F.
Labor Council resolution was contained in any of the AFL-CIO Executive
Council resolutions. By "subsuming" this resolution, the Resolutions
Committee had, in fact, killed it. There was to be no talk at the
convention of labor having to break its ties of subordination to the
(6) The interview is contained in the same LVP link:
(7) For more information about the Platform of the United Front for
Justice and Dignity, go to: http://www.todopoderalpueblo.org/united-front/ .
* * * * * * * * * *
Model Resolution on Immigration Reform
(adopted by the United Front For Justice and Dignity at its Convention
on September 7 in Los Angeles, for submission to the delegates
attending the 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO; more than 1,000
copies of this Model Resolution were distributed to the delegates)
There are 11 million undocumented immigrants contributing to the
American economy and community that are being denied basic rights and
Anti-immigrant programs such as Secure Communities (S-COMM), E-Verify
and I-9 audits have resulted in the deportations of hundreds of
thousands of undocumented immigrants and continue to incite fear and
terror in immigrant communities;
The rate of deportations is at a record high, with 34,000 individuals
being deported monthly, tragically separating thousands of families;
Family unity has been threatened by a broken immigration system that
imposes unnecessary wait times for sponsorships, leaving millions
awaiting reunification for decades;
Immigration reform must create a fair process respecting human dignity
and family unity, including protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender, intersex, and questioning (LGBTIQ) families;
Working people are strongest when working together, and the labor
movement is strongest when it is open to all workers, regardless of
where they come from;
We deny that migrants are responsible for the "strain" on jobs and
services. These are scarce not because of migration, but because the
corporations and politicians in their service are decimating them as
part of making the majority pay for the crisis, to boost profits and
the wealth of the rich;
Although we are not at war with Mexico or Canada, militarizing the
borders has led to thousands of deaths and widespread violations of
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central America
Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and other similar "free trade"
agreements and structural adjustment policies and other
U.S.-government-backed "economic reforms" continue to boost corporate
profits while creating massive poverty in countries like Mexico, El
Salvador and others, and as a result, millions of workers and farmers
are displaced and have no alternative but to migrate in search of
work, and therefore will continue to come to the United States to
work, join our unions and participate in our organizing drives;
Temporary worker programs do not reflect the values and interests of
U.S. workers; they reflect the policy objectives of Big Business and
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The largest corporations and employer
groups in the United States -- including WalMart, Hyatt, Smithfield,
the Associated Building Contractors, Microsoft and others -- seek to
force this flow of migrants to come to the United States only through
guest worker programs, where the low wages, lack of rights, and
dangerous conditions are described as "Close to Slavery" by the
Southern Poverty Law Center, while these corporations try to restrict
and end family-based immigration; and
We as a labor movement have previously called for inclusive reform of
our immigration laws, and adopted a position that demands a halt to
deportations, amnesty/legalization for all undocumented workers, the
strengthening of family reunification as the basis of immigration
policy, protection of the right to organize for all workers, the
repeal of employer sanctions, opposition to guest worker programs, the
demilitarization of our borders, and "fair trade" policies that
prevent the massive destruction of jobs and communities south of the
border contained in the current "free trade" agreements.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO stands united with the
community to call on Congress to create a rapid and inclusive way for
11 million undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and
citizenship -- not contingent upon border security measures or going
to the "back of the line" of prospective immigrants. Such a swift
legalization process must lead to a green card, without requiring
proof of continuous employment and without excluding people based on
minor criminal records or based on learning English.
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO supports family
reunification by increasing legal avenues for loved ones to reunite
with each other by eliminating the backlog in family reunification
petitions and ensuring that families can petition for relatives in the
future without the long waits, and opposes eliminating any family
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO calls on Congress to
ensure due process and protections at every level of immigration and
to reinstate judicial review;
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO stands united with the
community to call on Congress to put an immediate halt to all
deportations and all workplace enforcement actions. Enforcement
programs such as Secure Communities, racial and ethnic profiling, and
the use of detention, including mandatory and prolonged detention,
should be ended. Mandatory E-Verify and I-9 audits should also be
ended, as they build upon the flawed employer sanctions framework and
push workers into an underground economy where workplace abuses are
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO supports a reform on
border enforcement based on demilitarizing the border and restoring
full civil and human rights in border communities. Immigration laws
should be enforced by the federal government, not by local law
enforcement officers, and the policies leading to the detention and
deportation of hundreds of thousands of people annually,
overwhelmingly workers and their families, much be changed;
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO calls upon Congress to
provide immigrants with equal access to healthcare and other public
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO calls on Congress to
ensure full labor and workplace rights and protections for all workers
regardless of immigration status, including the right to organize and
enforce worker protections without retaliation;
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO calls on Congress to
remove from any immigration reform legislation all guest worker
provisions and programs, as these only contribute to creating a second
class of workers and lowering wages and working conditions for all
workers. Permanent residence visas should be made available for people
who want to come to the U.S. to work;
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO calls for a just
immigration reform that addresses the root causes of migration, and
therefore calls for fundamental changes to NAFTA, CAFTA and all "free
trade" agreements; all provisions causing poverty and unemployment
that force people to migrate to survive must be scrapped, and no new
such agreements, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, should be signed;
The 2013 National Convention of the AFL-CIO will communicate this
position with the State and National Congressional delegates.
Lies vs. Truth: 8/27/13 CA Latino Legislative Caucus Debate on “Comprehensive Immigration Reform”
This meeting occurred on August 27, 2013 in Sacramento; a meeting before the California Latino Caucus. Gov. Brown attended, along with some 20 legislators and fifty others (probably staffers).
Independent analyst Arnold Torres, Peter Schey (President of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law), Enrique Morones (Border Angels), and Arturo Carmona (Presente.org) present the facts on the anti-worker “common sense immigration reform,” Senate Bill 744.
Those who represented the pro-S.744 side Mike Garcia (SEIU), Angelica Salas (CHIRLA), Arturo Rodriguez (UFW) present the same old arguments meant to support the anti-worker “reform” that will lead to massive border militarization, the expansion of guest worker (indentured servitude/bracero) programs, and the theft of undocumented workers’ social security monies.
The pro-S.744 forces are clearly their own worst enemies, witness how their arguments are so mediocre, opportunist, and self-serving.
Video presented by United for Justice & Dignity: National Migrant Labor Convention
Welcome & Introductions
Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair of Latino Caucus
Assembly Member V. Manuel Pérez, Vice Chair of Latino Caucus
Panel 1 – Historical & Policy Overview
Angelica Salas – Executive Director, Coalition for Human & Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
Arnold Torres – Immigration Analyst
Peter Schey – President, Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law
Panel 2 – The California Economy, Foreign Labor, and Immigration Reform
Carl Guardino – President/CEO, The Silicon Valley Leadership Group
Barry Bedwell – President, California Grape & Tree Fruit League
Mike Winn – President/CEO, The California Building Industry Association
Panel 3 – Workforce Development, Worker Rights, and Immigration Reform
Caitlin Vega – Legislative Advocate, California Labor Federation (AFL-CIO)
Diana Tellefson Torres – National Vice-President, United Farmworkers Union (UFW)
Mike Garcia – President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Service Workers West (USWW)
Special Guest Speaker
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Panel 4 – The Immigrant Rights Movement and Immigration Reform
Enrique Morones – President, Border Angels
Reshma Shamasunder – Executive Director, California Immigrant Policy Center
Arturo Carmona – President, Presente.org
Efrain Delgado – Dreamer Representative, The California Dream Network
Miguel Araujo – President, Centro Azteca
• Do we want to spend almost $50,000,000,000 to militarize the border?
• Do we want a new “Bracero” /Guest Worker program (modern indentured servitude)?
• Do we want to split up families, sending parents to Mexico?
• We want documents and permanent residency rights for all: the right to work, higher education, drivers’ licenses and public benefits for all.
• We want an immediate end to raids and deportations.
• We want a path to citizenship without undue delays, fees, back-taxes, restrictions, and penalties — no to “getting in the back of the line!”
• Workers must have the unconditional legal right to organize.
• No to E-Verify, Secure Communities [S-COMM], and other forms of Police-Migra collaboration.
• No to the military service ‘option’ (backdoor draft) for Dreamers
YES to a just and humane immigration reform that eliminates the terror and anxiety in our communities, respects and protects the human rights of undocumented workers, and eliminates the injustices our families face.
The United Front for Justice and Dignity is a statewide network formed with the purpose of community education and the defense of working-class and immigrant communities across California. We are comprised of labor organizations, students, individuals, and grassroots political, cultural, and community groups that have united to fight for a humane and just immigration reform that won’t compromise our basic dignity, civil rights, or social protections. Our efforts aim to obtain positive change, uplift the aspirations of working people, and truly better the living-conditions of our communities.
For more information call (626) 568-1147 // Pre-registration:http://migrantlabor.eventbrite.com/
Obama, on Telemundo, rules out freezing deportations of most illegal immigrants-Obama said such a move is “not an option.”
Obama, on Telemundo, rules out freezing deportations of most illegal immigrants
John Moore/Getty Images - New American citizens say the Pledge of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony Tuesday in New York City.
By David Nakamura, Tuesday, September 17, 3:54 PM E-mail the writer
President Obama on Tuesday ruled out using his executive authority to freeze deportations for most of the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, saying such a move would violate federal law.
With a comprehensive immigration overhaul stalled on Capitol Hill, advocates have called on the president to move forward without congressional approval to halt the deportations, estimated at more than 1,000 per day.
But Obama said such a move is “not an option.” During an interview at the White House with Telemundo, the Spanish-language television network, Obama defended his decision last summer to defer the deportations of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents as children. The legal rationale in that case, he said, was to allow federal agencies to devote more time and resources to high-priority immigration cases such as those involving people with multiple criminal convictions.
But he said that expanding that deferment program beyond the young people it now covers “would be ignoring the law in a way that would be very difficult to defend legally.”
The president’s decision is likely to disappoint advocates who are beginning to lose hope that sweeping immigration legislation will advance out of Congress this year. House Republicans have refused to vote on a Senate-approved plan that features a 13-year path to citizenship for the undocumented, choosing instead to focus on piecemeal bills dealing with increased border security and workplace visas.
House leaders said they will hold a policy meeting Thursday on issues important to the Latino community, including immigration, and they released a video to mark the start of Hispanic Heritage Month this week. But the video made no mention of immigration, and some lawmakers who support of a comprehensive overhaul said they fear the clock is running out as Congress and the White House turn to an extended debate over the budget and debt ceiling.
Advocates said they will keep pressure on the House, including a rally and concert on the Mall on Oct. 8 featuring a performance by Grammy-winning Latin group Los Tigres del Norte. Organizers expect the two-hour concert to draw tens of thousands of people to Congress’s doorstep, an important visual symbol that can add cultural weight to the political movement.
“A handful of extremists in the House of Representatives wants to stop anything progressive, anything that means something to working people, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants,” said Jaime Contreras, a vice president at the Service Employees International Union. “It’s time for Republican leaders to start standing up to the extremists and let them know that inaction is not an option for us. We will not stop until we win this fight.”
Obama has used targeted interviews with Spanish-language media to assure the Latino community that he remains committed to an overhaul of the nation’s border control laws. In the Telemundo appearance, Obama acknowledged the growing frustration in a community that overwhelmingly supported his reelection but might now be “losing heart” on a legislative solution on immigration.
Since announcing his push for an overhaul in a speech in Las Vegas in late January, the president has chosen to let Congress lead the debate, calculating that a more robust public campaign would anger Republicans and push away potential supporters.
Obama challenged House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring the Senate plan to the floor for a vote, predicting it would pass with bipartisan support even if the majority of the GOP caucus would vote against the bill.
“He shouldn’t be afraid of majority opinion on this thing,” Obama said. “If in fact the overwhelming majority of the American people think we need to do something on immigration — we’ve got a bipartisan bill — why not go ahead and let it come to the floor of the House and let’s see what happens?”
David Bacon ignored that the reactionary SB 744 supported by the AFL-CIO, SEIU, UFWA and FLOC would further militarize the border and lead to more murders and deaths on the border.