Secretary-Treasurer: Immigration Reform Key to AFSCME’s Fight for Workers

by Cynthia McCabe  |  February 12, 2013

Just as it advanced the cause of civil rights and women’s rights in decades past, AFSCME will push comprehensive immigration reform now as part of its fight for workers’ rights, Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes said Tuesday, addressing attendees of the union’s Legislative Conference in Washington, DC.

AFSCME and the American labor movement have an obligation to challenge unfair working conditions and social injustice for all workers, Reyes said. Under the nation’s current immigration system, employers are free to exploit the nation’s 11 million undocumented workers for their labor. Poor wages and working conditions for these workers negatively affect all workers.

“There is a shadow economy with millions of desperate, low-wage workers who put up with miserable working conditions, it drives down wages across the board,” Reyes said. “A shadow economy that exploits not only aspiring citizens, but every worker in America.”

Reyes recently joined Pres. Barack Obama in Las Vegas as he outlined his principles for common-sense immigration reform. It’s a plan that AFSCME supports, Reyes told Legislative Conference attendees, because it includes a full path to citizenship and helps keep together families that now live under the threat of deportation.

Legislative Conference participants filled out commitment cards, pledging to launch local union committees to fight for reform. In the coming months, that will include rallies, call-in days of action and the gathering of petition signatures.

Reyes pointed out that America’s undocumented workers are not nameless, faceless and off in some distant state. They and their children are our neighbors, the people we serve each day in hospitals and in schools. They provide the labor that many shun – harvesting crops, cleaning hotels and clearing restaurant tables – grinding out meager wages in sweatshops that exist from South Carolina to Iowa. They pay taxes and give to their churches and charities. They and their children want the same things we want: adequate wages and working conditions, a quality education and a shot at the American Dream.

AFSCME must help them, Reyes said. More than 16 million American families have a family an undocumented family member. That includes AFSCME families, Reyes said.

“We need to come together for these aspiring citizens and their families.  With our voices, a new generation of American workers will enter the mainstream of American life.”

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