Category Archives: Immigrant Rights

Nearly 500 Celebrate May Day in Pittsburgh with a Colorful and Festive March and Rallies

By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue

Nearly 500 workers and community actvists marched through the streets of Pittsburgh’s South Side May I celebrating the international workers holiday. The main theme of the event was linking a defense of worker’s rights with immigrant rights, and backing the passage of a just and comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress.

‘Everyone here is an immigrant or the sons and daughters of immigrants,’ declared Leo Gerard, USW President, speaking from the back of a truck. ‘We can’t separate worker’s rights and immigrant rights, they’re one and the same.!

The main organizers of the celebration were Fight Back Pittsburgh and United Steel Workers Local 3657. The United Federation of Teachers, the United Electrical Workers, SEIU, IBEW, the USW’s ‘Women of Steel’ and other unions also took part.

This was the first May Day event backed by Pittsburgh unions in some years, and it was also promoted nationally by Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO. It marks the beginning of a more militant response by labor against austerity and in defense of wider democracy for all of its allies.

The day started with a rally at the UFT headquarters, followed by a mile-long march along Carson Street, ending with another rally, with music and food, at the IBEW headquarters.

Community organizers from One Pittsburgh and the resident groups also played an important role, bringing out Latinos, Middle Eastern and African immigrants. Activists from Beaver County’s Progressive Democrats of America, Beaver County Peace Links and Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism also took part.

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Revival of May Day Rallies Reflect Urgency of Pending Immigration Reform, Workers’ Right to Organize

By Peter Drier
Beaver County Blue via HuffPost

May 1, 2013 – Unlike the rest of the world’s democracies, the United States doesn’t use the metric system, doesn’t require employers to provide workers with paid vacations, hasn’t abolished the death penalty, and doesn’t celebrate May Day as an official national holiday.

Outside the U.S., May 1 is international workers’ day, observed with speeches, rallies, and demonstrations. This year, millions of workers in Europe, Asia, and Latin America are taking to the streets to demand higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions. A week after a building collapse in Bangladesh killed hundreds of workers in sweatshop factories making clothing for American and other consumers, thousands of garment factory workers in Bangladesh paraded through the streets calling for work safeguards and for the owner of the collapsed building to be sentenced to death.

Ironically, this celebration of working-class solidarity originated in the US labor movement in the United States and soon spread around the world, but it never earned official recognition in this country. Since 2006, however, American unions and immigrant rights activists have resurrected May 1 as a day of protest. This year’s rallies have a special urgency. For the first time in decades, a bill for comprehensive immigration reform, which would bring many of the estimated 11 million living in the U.S. illegally out of the shadows, has a good chance to pass Congress. In cities across the country, millions of Americans will be out in the streets today to give voice to the growing crusade for reform.

The original May Day was born of the movement for an eight-hour workday. After the Civil War, unregulated capitalism ran rampant in America. It was the Gilded Age, a time of merger mania, increasing concentration of wealth, and growing political influence by corporate power brokers known as Robber Barons. New technologies made possible new industries, which generated great riches for the fortunate few, but at the expense of workers, many of them immigrants, who worked long hours, under dangerous conditions, for little pay.

Continue reading Revival of May Day Rallies Reflect Urgency of Pending Immigration Reform, Workers’ Right to Organize

Join the May Day Rally and March in Pittsburgh

AFL-CIO CELEBRATES MAY DAY

Pittsburgh, PA

May 1, 2013
05:00PM to 07:00PM

Hosted by Fightback Pittsburgh, United Steelworkers and others.

Event Description

Working families in Pittsburgh will hold a May Day rally and march to support a common sense immigration process. The rally will start at Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers then be followed by a march at 6PM. Working families will then rally and celebration of resistance at 6:30PM at IBEW Local 5 Hall, (5 Hot Metal St. Pittsburgh, PA. Organizations participating include Fight Back Pittsburgh, the United Steelworkers other unions and community organizations across Pittsburgh.

Location

Event will start at the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, 10 S. 19th St. Pittsburgh, PA 15203

McDonald’s ‘Guest Workers’ in Harrisburg Area Stage Surprise Strike

McDonald’s Workers in NYC

By Josh Eidelson
Beaver County Blue via The Nation

March 6, 2013 – Alleging unpaid wages and repeated retaliation, McDonald’s workers in central Pennsylvania launched a surprise strike at 11 this morning. The strikers are student guest workers from Latin America and Asia, brought to the United States under the controversial J-1 cultural exchange visa program. Their employer is one of the thousands of McDonald’s franchisees with whom the company contracts to run its ubiquitous stores.

“We are afraid,” striker Jorge Victor Rios told The Nation prior to the work stoppage. “But we are trying to overcome our fear.”

The McDonald’s corporation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The J-1 visa program is officially intended to promote educational and cultural exchange. But advocates allege that J-1, like the other guest worker programs that collectively bring hundreds of thousands of workers in and out of the United States each year, is rife with abuse. The National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), the organization spearheading today’s strike, charges that such programs—whose future is intimately tied up with the fate of comprehensive immigration reform—offer ample opportunities for employers to intimidate workers, suppress organizing and drive down labor standards.

“McDonald’s is just the latest in a long line of corporations that have hijacked the US guest worker program to get cheap, exploitable labor, and that’s what the students are,” NGA Executive Director Saket Soni told The Nation. “The conditions are horrific, but have become the norm for guest workers.”

The workers are striking over what they charge are rampant abuses at their stores in Harrisburg and nearby Lemoyne and Camp Hill. According to NGA, the visiting students each paid $3,000 or more for the chance to come and work, and were promised full-time employment; most received only a handful of hours a week, while others worked shifts as long as twenty-five hours straight, without being paid overtime. “Their employer is also their landlord,” said Soni. “They’re earning sub-minimum wages, and then paying it back in rent” to share a room with up to seven co-workers. “Their weekly net pay is actually sometimes brought as low as zero.”

Continue reading McDonald’s ‘Guest Workers’ in Harrisburg Area Stage Surprise Strike

Rights for Immigrants Benefit All Workers

Immigration Reform Prevents Employer Abuse

By Leo Gerard
Beaver County Blue via HuffPost

Feb 4, 2013 –

Oscar came to the United States at the age of 16 to work. There were no jobs for him in his native Guatemala, and he felt obligated to help support his parents.

He was lured across borders by the promise of work. He believed, as so many immigrants do, that there would be a job for him in America.

For the past five years, he has worked at a Los Angeles car wash that cheated him and other immigrant workers out of pay, refused protective gear and even denied drinking water.

Employers such as car washes, corporate farms, construction companies and lawn care businesses entice immigrants into the United States by providing jobs with no questions asked. They lure undocumented workers in, and then abuse them with impunity. This endangers all workers because the low-wage, hazardous conditions undocumented workers endure can become the standard. This is especially true in bad economic times. More border security is fine. But to ensure safe, family-supporting jobs remain the norm, America must hold employers to account for baiting immigrants.

Like many immigrants, Oscar, now 29, stayed with a relative when he arrived in America. At first, he found work delivering cosmetics. The company treated him decently but laid him off when business declined. That’s when he got the job at Vermont Car Wash in L.A.

Continue reading Rights for Immigrants Benefit All Workers

Every Picture Tells a Story: Labor Solidarity and OWS

Unions and Immigrants Join Occupy Movements

 By David Bacon
Progressive America Rising via Truthout | Photo Essay

Dec 6, 2011 – Oakland, California – When Occupy Seattle called its tent camp "Planton Seattle," camp organizers were laying a local claim to a set of tactics used for decades by social movements in Mexico, Central America and the Philippines. And when immigrant janitors marched down to the detention center in San Diego and called their effort Occupy ICE (the initials of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency responsible for mass deportations),people from countries with that planton encampment tradition were connecting it to the Occupy movement here.

Photo Above:Southern California janitors block the streets to protest the firing of immigrant workers. (Photo: David Bacon)

This shared culture and history offer new possibilities to the Occupy movement for survival and growth at a time when the federal law enforcement establishment, in cooperation with local police departments and municipal governments, has uprooted many tent encampments. Different Occupy groups from Wall Street to San Francisco have begun to explore their relationship with immigrant social movements in the US, and to look more closely at the actions of the 1 percent beyond our borders that produces much of the pressure for migration.

Reacting to the recent evictions, the Coalition for the Political Rights of Mexicans Abroad recently sent a support letter to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and the other camps under attack. "We greet your movement," it declared, "because your struggle against the suppression of human rights and against social and economic injustice has been a fundamental part of our struggle, that of the Mexican people who cross borders, and the millions of Mexican migrants who live in the United States."

The banners at Occupy Seattle. (Photo: David Bacon)

Many of those migrants living in the US know the tradition of the planton and how it’s used at home. And they know that the 1 percent, whose power is being challenged on Wall Street, also designed the policies that are the very reason why immigrants are living in the US to begin with. Mike Garcia, president of United Service Workers West/SEIU, the union that organized Occupy ICE, described immigrant janitors as "displaced workers of the new global economic order, an order led by the West and the United States in particular."

Continue reading Every Picture Tells a Story: Labor Solidarity and OWS