Unions Nationwide Use May Day For Mass Rallies For Undocumented Workers’ Rights

With the Service Employees leading the way, unions nationwide used May Day, the international workers day, to hit the streets in mass campaigns for comprehensive immigration reform. From New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between unionists and their allies gathered in 70 rallies and marches for the cause.

Not even another blizzard stopped the demonstrators. One photo SEIU posted on Twitter showed Minneapolis marchers holding a large “Immigration reform – now!” bedsheet banner while dressed in parkas and scarves and with snow swirling around.
A flag-festooned march of 10,000 people paraded through Milwaukee. An estimated 90,000 marched in Manhattan.

The key reform the workers advocate is a path to legal citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. As long as they are technically “illegal,” vicious and venal employers can exploit them – and use the threat of hiring them to drive down wages and working conditions of everyone else.
“A pathway to citizenship is a guarantee that everyone will be afforded the same protections and that unscrupulous employers will not be allowed to exploit loopholes to drive down wages,” SEIU said in sending its forces out into the streets. “It is important that the pathway isn’t too long, the fines aren’t too high, and barriers aren’t too steep.”
“Work. We all do it, and we all have certain expectations about it. We expect to be paid. We expect to receive fair treatment. We expect that if we work hard, we’ll have access to greater opportunities and better jobs,” SEIU said in an on-line message accompanying the events.
“We don’t believe in a ‘subclass’ of workers. We believe hard-working immigrants deserve protection from unscrupulous employers and should not be paid less than minimum wage.
“But if we’re not careful, conservative forces could succeed in creating a subclass of workers who are paid and treated differently than the rest of us. How? They want to strike down crucial citizenship provisions in the immigration reform bill that’s currently being debated,” the union warned. It urged listeners and readers to call Congress and “tell them you support equal protection and reject second-class status for workers.”
Organized labor has made comprehensive immigration reform its top campaign priority for this year. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka promised labor would field a “presidential-style” mobilization for the cause. SEIU, the largest union in Change To Win, declared at the end of last year, that passing a reform bill would be its #1 legislative priority.