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Using the Feds to bust up Unions

In These Times reports that ICE raids on Immigrants are attacks on workers organizing unions

Posted on
Feb 24, 2017

Over the last few weeks, Trump has stepped up deportations and issued travel bans for immigrants from around the world. These stepped-up enforcements have meant that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is more prevalent in the community and more public in their actions. Even though some in the Building trades may laugh about the Latino scab who gets hassled by ICE, the real person who should be getting arrested is the contractor who didn’t sign a contract with the union.  According to Neidi Dominguez, from the AFL-CIO, non-union employers may use immigration as a way to break organizing campaigns involving Latino and immigrant workers. Over the last few years, our movement has made great strides in organizing and standing up for immigrant workers.  Trades like the Laborers have large numbers of immigrant members, while the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store union (RWDSU) has organized the Carwashheros in New York and Los Angeles and UNITE HERE turned their membership of Latino immigrants and first generation Americans into a political army in Nevada.  Instead of laughing at them and mocking them, we need to unite and stand up to these anti-union tactics.  You can read Dominguez’s entire interview about the role of the union movement in fighting these immigration orders below. Kris LaGrange

Less than a week into his presidency, Donald Trump acted on some of his most extreme campaign promises. On January 25, Trump signed a set of executive orders that will add 10,000 more agents to the already bloated Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), allow local law enforcement officers to detain and arrest undocumented immigrants, block federal funds to sanctuary cities and commence construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In other words, Trump started by doing exactly what he said he would—and he's hardly slowed down since.

While the situation is bleak, Neidi Dominguez believes that Trump’s agenda can be defeated. A long-time grassroots organizer and current director of worker center and community engagement for the AFL-CIO, Dominguez is at the forefront of a growing alliance between the labor and immigrant rights movements. She was instrumental in the union-backed campaign that mobilized thousands of voters in Maricopa County, Ariz., last fall to oust xenophobic Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who subjected immigrants to the kind of racial profiling and arbitrary detention that the president is now promising to enact nationwide. 

Born in Cuernavaca, capital of the Mexican state of Morelos and a historic hotbed of leftist organizing, Dominguez migrated to the U.S. at age 9. After graduating in 2008 from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she co-founded a support group for undocumented students, Dominguez helped spearhead organizing that led to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) presidential executive order in 2011. Dominguez has continued to organize immigrant communities since, particularly at the workplace. In These Times spoke with her about Trump's anti-immigrant executive orders.

The first week of Trump’s presidency was challenging, to say the least. How did you react to his immigration orders?

It was a very hard day. A huge blow. At the same time, it was extremely powerful to see people’s reactions. Here in D.C., there were multiple actions. Our local labor council came out and took over the streets, and we had a rally right in front of the White House. So I’ve been feeling both sick to my stomach and also really ready to fight. 

Were you at all surprised by the news?

Trump ran his campaign on the backs of people like myself and my family, who are Mexican and undocumented immigrants. I wasn’t necessarily surprised or shocked by his win, but I was still very sad and angry. I’ve lived in this country most of my life, and still I’m never going to be fully accepted. I don’t believe Trump represents how the majority of the country feels. But I still wondered, “How did we get here?” 

One of the few bright spots of the November elections was the successful campaign to oust Sheriff Arpaio. What lessons can you draw from the Bazta Arpaio campaign? 

It was empowering to see the community that had been terrorized by Arpaio take him out once and for all. We successfully engaged 10 different unions, including the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), a union that represents Border Patrol, to be part of this campaign to mobilize Latino voters and kick out Arpaio. 

We really attempted to get more sophisticated around the question of what kind of infrastructure, data and support we needed to mobilize people of color beyond the presidential election. We can’t just be talking to people once every four years. The doors that we knocked on were those of Latino voters who only voted once in the last four years, making them only 30 percent likely to vote. Those were voters that neither party was reaching. But we felt that we needed to talk to them because if we don’t, who will? All Latinos are not the same, and people are going to move based on issues, not candidates.

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