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By Jaclyn Diaz
Labor groups representing immigrants, women, blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans vowed collective action against President Donald Trump at a rally in Washington Jan. 27.
Representatives from AFL-CIO constituency groups gathered at the federation’s headquarters to denounce executive orders Trump signed Jan. 25. Speakers described several actions as “anti-worker,” including orders to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, to establish stricter immigration enforcement laws, and to threaten federal funding for “sanctuary cities.”
Leaders from each group promised grass-roots organizing with regional union chapters to protect immigrants and union workers and to ensure sanctuary cities remain. In such cities, local law enforcement officials refuse to work with federal authorities to deport undocumented immigrants.
The organizations included AFL-CIO Metropolitan Washington Council, A. Philip Randolph Institute, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Pride at Work, and Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
Trump’s actions and rhetoric aren’t just an attack on immigrants, but on unions and workers, too, Hector E. Sanchez, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, told Bloomberg BNA after the rally.
“These attacks are attacks on working people. We are going to continue organizing, mobilizing and increase participation in the nation and elect leaders that are reflective of the values of working class families,” Sanchez said.
Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, defended Trump’s plan. The executive actions aren’t targeting immigrant communities but will exist to protect the public and U.S. workers, he told Bloomberg BNA.
“Laws exist to protect the interest of the American public,” Mehlman said. “Immigrants who are here legally won’t be affected by these laws.” It’s only for those violating the law, he said.
Labor organizations including North America’s Building Trades Unions, Laborers' International Union of North America and Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., who met with Trump Jan. 26 to discuss U.S. workers, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The White House also didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Trump’s attacks on undocumented immigrants is an attack on a big part of union membership, Sanchez said.
Of the 14.8 million union members in 2010, 12 percent were foreign-born, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington.
And within those immigrant groups are women, children and members of the LGBTQ community, he said. “Any attacks on black workers, women or anyone, we will immediately unite,” Sanchez said.
To protect workers, labor groups will roll out training programs to teach union members on the local level how to respond to workplace raids by immigration and customs enforcement agents, Tim Schlittner, co-vice president of Pride @ Work, told Bloomberg BNA after the rally. These campaigns will educate workers on their legal rights, provide information on immigration advocates and offer education on pathways to citizenship. Pride @ Work’s mission is to achieve equality in unions and workplaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (and/or questioning) workers.
“We are making it clear that immigrants have a place in our workplace,” Schlittner said.
The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement has already provided similar training with success, Sanchez said.
Education and training on immigration is needed in unions all over the nation, to protect working families, Sanchez said. “They are a part of our labor movement. They are welcome in our houses,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at jDiaz@bna.com
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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