PHILADELPHIA (PAI) — After a discussion ranging from practical workers’ rights to biblical moral precepts, AFL-CIO convention delegates voted to “redouble” the federation’s campaign to achieve documented status for all migrants. inside the United States, as well as those seeking asylum and entry.
“The moral fabric of every nation and every society is measured by how they treat the least of us,” Farm Labor Organizing Committee Chairman Baldemar Velasquez told his colleagues, citing biblical prophets, June 15.
The Old Testament, he paraphrased, says, “We will govern our foreigners with the same laws that we govern ourselves.”
But both the discussion and the resolution turned to practice, highlighting not only the benefits that migrant workers, including those who are now undocumented, contribute to the economy, but how they were also on the front line of those who maintain, at danger to themselves, during the coronavirus pandemic.
And those who did not have papers were forced to do so under the exploitation and repression of employers, backed by the threat of denunciation and deportation.
The resolution adds that migration is part of a larger global problem: corporate greed.
It demands “enforceable environmental and labor standards in trade agreements and investment strategies, and an end to extractive neo-colonial foreign policy approaches that enrich multinational corporations and fuel poverty, exploitation, environmental degradation. environment, the violent suppression of rights and other factors that drive working families from their homelands. »
In 1999, pushed by John Wilhelm, then president of Unite HERE, the union federation overturned its historic skepticism about comprehensive immigration reform. Previously, unions had often responded to the popular attitude that migrants were taking jobs away from the native-born. Wilhelm reported not only that this was wrong, but that migrants were an essential – and growing – part of the economy.
And as long as they were both unorganized and, by virtue of their status, unorganized, venal and vicious employers could not only exploit them via low wages, no benefits and threats of expulsion, but use the threat of importing undocumented people to force workers to also accept pay and benefit cuts.
The AFL-CIO therefore changed course and campaigned for documented status for migrants, including the 11 million undocumented people already here, since then. The resolution also points out that conditions have not changed much for migrants in two decades or more. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the exploitation for all to see, he said.
“Meaningful immigration reform is a critical part of the broader structural change we need to dismantle systemic racism and create an economy that protects workers and promotes workplace and community democracy,” says his last resolution.
“Our unions will never agree to policies that relegate millions of workers to an exploitable underclass with severely limited rights. That is why we remain determined in the fight to win a path to citizenship for every undocumented worker… , and why we reject the model of work visa programs that gives employers control over the status and fate of workers,” he explains.
“The AFL-CIO is committed to building a bold, vibrant, and inclusive labor movement that brings good jobs and a secure future to all workers, regardless of where they are born.
The document calls for rethinking the migration system “to meet the real needs of people, rather than the supposed needs of employers”. This means, convention delegates said, not only obtaining documented status for migrants, but also H1-B, H2-B and other visas that allow employers to exploit migrants by threatening them. expulsion or prohibiting them from changing jobs.
“Solidarity and an unyielding commitment to building worker power drives our demand for a fairer immigration system that protects those in need and guarantees comprehensive and enforceable labor rights for all.”
But it’s not just about labor rights for migrants, says the resolution. Reform must include “transformative changes that protect our rights to a ballot, a union, a good job, a livable planet, a fair path to migrate and a truly inclusive society” that will “put people first profit “.
The resolution commits the federation to redouble its efforts to win “a long-awaited path to citizenship” and “relentlessly defend all workers whose rights are under attack”, including DACA workers and migrants under Temporary Protected Status , many of whom are in the building trades and have resided in the United States for decades.
The move coincided with the tenth anniversary of former Democratic President Barack Obama’s creation of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). DACA has enabled young people, brought to the United States, undocumented, by their parents when they were too young to decide, to come out of the shadows and obtain permits to work, serve in the army or to go to university.
The Republican Trump regime, responding to both the personal hatred of the occupant of the Oval Office and his white supremacist supporters, attempted to get rid of DACA. Court decisions stopped him.
The resolution also pledges to “organize all workers, regardless of status, and seek concrete protections and work permits for immigrants seeking to form or join a union, negotiate a contract, or take collective action to make our workplaces safe and fair”. And he advocates for a higher refugee ceiling, proper treatment, education and safety for unaccompanied children, and meaningful due process for asylum seekers.
Trump has also barred asylum seekers from entering the United States, holding them in overcrowded and often dangerous camps in northern Mexico. Democratic President Joe Biden recently abandoned that policy, amid outrage from Republicans and Nativists.
READ THE FULL AFL-CIO RESOLUTION HERE.