UE Convention Resolutions: Stand Up for The Rights of Immigrant Workers

Every day immigrants come to the United States seeking a better life for themselves and their families. They are often driven from their countries of birth by hunger, political repression and a lack of decent jobs. These conditions are often the result of U.S. foreign policy or U.S.-led corporate globalization. Thus immigration becomes a chance of survival for the world’s workers and poor.

Once here, immigrants, particularly those of color, learn that they are especially vulnerable to fluctuations in the economy and politics.

General insecurity about employment fuels the ongoing attempt by anti-labor politicians and hateful vigilante groups to blame economic woes on immigrants, diverting the attention of native-born workers from the corporate elite who pull the strings.

U.S. immigration laws are discriminatory and racist. These laws are often used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and employers to harass and abuse anyone who may look or sound "foreign." Particularly disturbing is ICE’s use of fake OSHA safety trainings to entrap and arrest undocumented immigrant workers. Such actions are not only deceptive and immoral, but undermine already-weak health and safety protections for all workers.

Social Security Administration no-match notices are routinely used by employers to terrorize immigrant workers and quash their labor rights. Many UE locals have faced such attempts by employers to use "no-match" letters to bust our Union.

Immigration laws can deny immigrants and their children public education, including college scholarships and equal access, the right to drive, receive health care, food stamps and other benefits despite the fact that immigrants are taxed at the same rates as U.S. citizens.

The Supreme Court’s Hoffman Plastic Compounds ruling in March 2002 decreed that immigrant workers fired for organizing a union are not entitled to back pay or reinstatement. The Court decided, in effect, that immigrant workers have no rights that bosses need respect. Bosses have taken notice and have used Hoffman to fire many union activists.

But despite the setback posed by the Hoffman decision, immigrant workers are organizing in greater and greater numbers. In fact, immigrants have formed the backbone of many recent UE organizing victories in the manufacturing sector in Illinois, Wisconsin and California.

These victories illustrate the stake that all workers living and working in the United States have in defending one another, regardless of immigration status. Some 11 million undocumented workers are in the U.S. The ability of government and employers to deny immigrant workers decent wages and conditions undermines the wages and conditions of all. Our success as a union and as a labor movement in organizing immigrants — some of the lowest-paid and most disadvantaged workers in the U.S. — can only strengthen our hand in dealing with the bosses.

The guest-worker program proposed by the Bush Administration would recreate the failed "bracero" program of the 1940s, which ripped families apart and denied workers basic labor protections. Any program that makes a worker’s visa contingent upon their job or employer creates conditions for exploitation and deprives workers of the right to organize.

Our immigration system is broken, and we need comprehensive immigration reform, including legislation which ensures legalization of immigrant workers, unification of immigrant families, access to education for immigrant children and the overturn of the Hoffman Plastics decision.

Immigrants built this country and have played a central role in our union since its inception. All workers, regardless of immigration status, must have the right to form unions, to file complaints against unfair treatment without fear of reprisal, to receive unemployment, disability and workers’ compensation benefits, to have access for themselves and their children to affordable housing, health care, education, and transportation, and to enjoy what few protections and remedies the law provides.

We cannot rest on our laurels, but must continue to fight for total equality. Successful fights for the rights of immigrant workers on the job and in society are possible. UE must work with other unions, religious and community groups to fight collectively for legalization and against anti-immigrant laws and sentiment.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 69th UE CONVENTION:

  1. Demands that Congress enact general amnesty/legalization, allowing all immigrants living in the U.S. in the year 2005 to remain here permanently and without penalty;
  2. Calls upon all UE locals to educate their immigrant members about their rights, and to educate non-immigrant members about the oppressions faced by their immigrant brothers and sisters;
  3. Encourages UE locals to work with unions, immigrant rights, church and community groups to assist undocumented workers, repeal employer sanctions; streamline citizenship procedures; ensure passage of a general amnesty program; win fair treatment for all immigrants. Urges UE locals to consider the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, S.1033 and H.R. 2330 as a first step toward doing so;
  4. Demands legislation to immediately overturn the Hoffman Plastics decision;
  5. Calls on Congress to re-introduce the proposed DREAM Act, which would provide access to higher education for young adults who are currently precluded from such opportunities because of their immigration status;
  6. Calls on UE locals with immigrant members to educate employers on the rights of immigrant workers and the employers’ right to resist ICE harassment and intimidation;
  7. Demands liberalization of political asylum procedures;
  8. Demands an end to all ICE harassment, arrests, seizures, raids, deportations and other abuses of undocumented workers, including the use of fake OSHA trainings as a means to deceive and intimidate undocumented workers;
  9. Denounces anti-immigrant laws and initiatives nationwide, including any that would deny public services to immigrants, particularly health care, education and income assistance;
  10. Denounces anti-immigrant, vigilante hate groups;
  11. Encourages UE locals to assist their immigrant members in attaining documented status and citizenship if they so desire;
  12. Demands that the Social Security Administration, all other government agencies, and public schools including higher education eliminate practices and policies that either directly or indirectly (as through the actions of employers), discriminate against immigrant workers, including undocumented workers;
  13. Demands that state motor vehicle agencies change policies and programs that make it impossible for immigrants to own and operate vehicles as this unjustly limits their opportunities and access to work, education and services and demands the repeal of the REAL ID Act;
  14. Urges UE locals to negotiate contract language that:
    1. Protects the jobs and contract rights of all UE members, regardless of immigration status;
    2. Allows undocumented workers to update their immigration status without loss of rights;
    3. Provides for company-paid English classes at workplaces where needed;
    4. Requires the company to supply translation when communicating on any important matter with a worker not fluent in English;
    5. Makes available copies of the contract in each language spoken by a significant number of workers in the bargaining unit;
    6. Guarantees freedom of expression in our members’ own languages;
  15. Rejects "English only" legislation as a divisive tool;
  16. Supports the upcoming "Coordinadora 2006" mobilization in Washington D.C. in support of immigrant rights;
  17. Demands that the U.S. Government sign and abide by the International Convention on the Protection of Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.


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