Top AFL-CIO officer: Unions never backing down on immigrant workers’ rights

By John Wojcik, People’s World

SAN ANTONIO —The U.S. labor movement “is never backing down, not an inch, on its commitment to full immigrant rights in this country,” says AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre. And “please quote me on that,” he told People’s World.

Gebre’s outspoken position on March 13 was reiterated in an official federation statement, one of only two the AFL-CIO Executive Council issued during its 2-day meeting in San Antonio.

“The immigration work and policies of the federation remain the same, despite the outcome of these contentious elections” in 2016, the fed said. The voting saw Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump win due to, leading his stands, his anti-immigrant hate.

“If anything, our efforts to organize and represent all workers, and to advance immigration policies that help to raise wages and standards, take on greater urgency as immigrants and refugees are being criminalized and terrorized in our workplaces and communities,” the federation’s statement added.

Gebre made the declaration while he was on his way into a closed-door executive council session.  He said the position of the labor movement includes support for a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented people now in the country, plus opposition to Trump’s executive orders on immigration and opposition to the building of a wall on the border with Mexico.

“All working people benefit from an immigration system with a roadway to citizenship,” Gebre said. “We make the most progress when we support all workers, regardless of race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation and when we support them regardless of immigration status.”

The federation also “remains opposed to any plans to build a wall on the border” between the U.S. and Mexico, Deputy Communications Director Amaya Smith said. Trump’s first budget blueprint, released the day after the council session ended, included the first chunk of funds for planning the wall. It drew flak on Capitol Hill.

“Building a wall on our border, scapegoating immigrants and refugees and shutting out people of Muslim faith will do nothing to uplift working people,” federation president Richard Trumka said on Feb. 15. Gebre himself is a political refugee and immigrant born in Ethiopia who came to the U.S. as a teen.

The current immigration system “exposes immigrant workers to special exploitation with millions struggling to support their families in poverty wages or unsafe working conditions. They face the highest rates of wage theft, sexual harassment and death and injury,” he said.

“When a segment of society suffers, all suffer. The labor movement is committed to reforming our country’s entire immigration system. A just and humane system of immigration creates a more just and humane system for everyone,” Gebre stated.

Source: PAI