Saturday, April 20, 2024

An Unexpected New Ally in the Fight for Immigration Reform

During a speech on June 18 in Cleveland, Ohio, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asserted that the major labor unions including Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union are backing immigration reform.

Historically, labor unions have always been opposed to immigration reform, even recently having helped kill efforts in 2007.  That was before Arizona’s S.B. 1070.

Trumka calls the anti-immigration law a “hate campaign” against “working people.”

The “working people” make up the fabric of labor unions, but their numbers are dwindling.  Having once peaked at a third of the U.S. labor force during the 1950s, the Bureau of Labor Statistic now puts that number at 12.3%.

Boldly vowing to, “face head-on our own contradictions, hypocrisy and history on immigration,” Trumka in effect verbalized the view that immigrants are no longer viewed as a threat in the eyes of labor unions.  On the contrary, with potentially millions of immigrant workers who given the opportunity to unionize if legalized, labor unions could once again see their numbers soar.

“Immigrant workers are the growth sector in today’s labor movement, so they’re a big part of its future,” said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University.

However, the single most compelling reason for backing immigration reform is not an economic one says Trumka, it’s a moral one.

In light of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law Trumka, who is widely considered the most powerful labor union voice in the country, says, “All of us should fear such a system. In the end, don’t all of us who aren’t Native Americans look like the immigrants and children of immigrants that we are?”

Washington Independent


  1. I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened. All of us ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated, but this is not the case.

    I know the proponents of this law say that the majority approves of this law, but the majority is not always right. Would women or non-whites have the vote if we listen to the majority of the day, would the non-whites have equal rights (and equal access to churches, housing, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, schools, colleges and yes water fountains) if we listen to the majority of the day? We all know the answer, a resounding, NO!

    Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics and do what is right, not what is just popular with the majority. Some men comprehend discrimination by never have experiencing it in their lives, but the majority will only understand after it happens to them.

  2. Latinos are the future of the labor movement and the nation as a whole and all policies must take into consideration its impact on this emerging population. President Trumka understands that the fight for workers’ rights and broad prosperity must bring together labor and the immigrant rights movement. It is great and timely to have such a powerful ally in the fight for immigration reform.