A project of the Center for Community Change

Worker’s Rights

Immigrants in solidarity with Wisconsin workers!


Immigrant workers in the United States know what it’s like to be unfairly pitted against workers.  At FIRM, we believe supporting the rights of immigrants and the rights of all workers is the same struggle.

In fact, studies show that immigration reform would raise the floor for all workers.  And conversely, supporting the rights of workers helps all of us, including immigrants.  This is why immigrant communities are rallying in solidarity with Wisconsin workers.

This week, the state’s senate Republicans caught most of the world off guard by staging a late night meeting where they passed Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal that strips nearly all bargaining rights from public workers. The measure was passed despite the absence of all senate Democrats by removing all fiscal aspects of the bill, which in turn nullified the need for a quorum.

Mike Tate, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told the Washington Post:

“The vote does nothing to create jobs, does nothing to strengthen our state, and shows finally and utterly that this was never about anything but raw political power,” . “We now put our total focus on recalling the eligible Republicans who voted for this bill. And we also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall.”

Questions abound about the legitimacy of the move, but most interesting to me is this opinion from Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley who claims it is not constitutional.  The legality may be uncertain, but what is clear is that this bill is wrong for Wisconsin.  It’s wrong for workers. It’s wrong for everyone.

The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled House and then to the governor’s desk for signing. Walker, of course, is anxiously awaiting it.

The actions of Republicans in Wisconsin are in line with what seems to be the strategy of Republicans everywhere: divide our communities, do nothing to actually create jobs, destroy the unions who built America’s middle class, cut a thousand holes in the social programs safety net, cut funding that helps women and children, and give all breaks to the very wealthy.

The good news out of Wisconsin, news every Republican thinking of emulating Wisconsin should consider, is this: the push to recall the Republican state senators is gaining momentum.  It is awesome and inspiring to see the people rising up and pushing back.  This is what democracy looks like!

Meanwhile, if this story has your blood boiling, there is a simple way to get involved. Call Republican Gov. Scott Walker at 866-956-1737 and tell him NOT to sign this bill.

Bush’s Midnight Attack on Farmworker’s

A post by Farmworker Justice has been making the rounds on the blogosphere this week. Apparently the Bush administration is making last minute changes at the Department of Labor that will set migrant farmworkers back to the Bracero era.

CHILDREN FOR HIRE TEXAS

These will be the most far-reaching changes in the laws regulating agricultural guestworker programs since 1942.  They will return us to an era of agricultural labor exploitation that many thought ended decades ago.

The changes cut wage rates and wage protections for both domestic and foreign workers, minimize recruitment obligations inside the U.S. and curtail or eliminate much of the government oversight that is supposed to deter and remedy illegal employer conduct. 

It comes as no shock that while this administration has LOUDLY been proclaiming the “successes” of worksite raids, they are quietly undercutting wages and workers’ rights.

For more, here’s a round-up of coverage:

Nezua at the Unapologetic Mexican discusses the changes

Latina Lista sums it up nicely with a post titled:  Bush Administration now bails out agricultural industry with changes to guestworker program that creates a government sanctioned slave market

Bush’s Parting Gift: Working againstMigrant Farmworkers

America’s Voice Discusses Why Now, more than ever, is not the time for these types of changes.

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Agriprocessors Fights Unionization

Apparently, not only are the owners of Agriprocessors facing child labor violation charges, stemming from May’s workplace raid in Postville, Iowa, but they are also fighting to take away the right of undocumented workers to join labor unions.

The Associated Press reports:

Agriprocessors Inc. has gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to urge the justices to reconsider their long-held position that workers in the country illegally have a right to join labor unions.

The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to take the case, but if it does, it could have ramifications for a complicated area of U.S. labor law.

This is unsurprising, given that the raid on their Postville plant happened in the midst of workers attempts to unionize themselves to demand better standards.

A spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Scott Frotman, said the company’s only interest is preventing its workers from organizing and demanding better pay.

“This is another example of how this company uses a broken immigration system to drive down wages and working conditions at its facilities,” Frotman said.

Agriprocessors made headlines in May when 400 of its workers were detained during a raid on its slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa.

On Tuesday, Agriprocessors owner Abraham Aaron Rubashkin, his son Sholom Rubashkin and other managers at the company were charged with hiring minors to work at the Iowa slaughterhouse, including some children younger than 16 who handled saws and meat grinders.

Though misdemeanors, they were the first criminal charges brought against the plant operators and could carry jail time. The company denied the allegations.

After the charges were filed, the Orthodox Union, one of the largest kosher certifiers in the country, said it would suspend kosher supervision of the plant unless the company hires a new chief executive officer within “several weeks.”

Labor groups have long argued that if workplace protections weren’t extended to illegal immigrants, a company could feel free to ignore labor standards with impunity and retaliate against any employees who complained.

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