The unions unify
April 17, 2009
by MEAT&POULTRY Staff
The cause of immigration reform has brought together the two most powerful and influential labor organizations in the U.S., the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the Change to Win coalition. Change to Win includes the United Food and Commercial Workers, the primary union representing organized workforces in the meat industry, and UFCW’s president, Joseph T. Hansen, chairs Change to Win’s Immigration Task Force.
Change to Win was founded in 2005 after disagreements with the leadership of A.F.L.-C.I.O., which is headed by John Sweeney. Scott Frotman, UFCW spokesman, told MEATPOULTRY.com that the two big groups have worked together in the past on such issues as card-check, but "immigration is such a critical issue for every union, it was important that we work together."
On April 14 Hansen and Sweeney together unveiled what they called a "reform framework" for immigration, which was developed with the help of former Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall and the Economic Policy Institute. The show of unity was made, according to a UFCW release, to emphasize to the Obama administration that immigration reform "remains a priority on the legislative calendar. It is also an important sign that immigration reform is an important part of economic recovery."
The framework includes proposals for improving productivity, limiting wage competition, strengthening labor standards, and providing social safety nets, including lifelong education and training for workers and their families. "To achieve this goal, immigration reform must fully protect U.S. workers, reduce the exploitation of immigrant workers, and reduce the employers’ incentive to hire undocumented workers rather than U.S. workers," the union groups stated in a release.
Frotman told MEATPOULTRY.com that the raids on meat and other companies over the past two years by agents of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency prove that "you can’t enforce your way to an immigration policy." He did not know, he said, whether managers at meat companies had been consulted in the development of the reform framework, but "we’re certainly not opposed to talking to them. They’re affected by these ICE raids just as much as workers are. It’s a terrible situation for everyone."
"We need an immigration system that works for America’s workers," said Hansen at the announcement of the new joint effort. "For too long, our nation’s immigration system has fueled discrimination and exploitation of workers. It has driven down wages and working conditions. And it has failed to live up to our nation’s values. We now have an opportunity to change course."
Frotman said the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and Change to Win are both "acutely aware" that the Obama administration has plenty on its plate already. "But we hope immigration reform remains a priority. This system has broken for a long time, and you can’t really address it in a piecemeal fashion. An effective approach needs to take in a wide array of programs," he commented.READER COMMENTS:
From: Emmet G.
Granted immigration has to be reformed, so who is going to do the work? Farmers are having a hard time getting workers that U.S. citizens won't do because they are getting handouts from our state and federal government. Find a solution with the companies and the unions that everybody can be happy with.
From: Tim K.
I have worked in the meat and poultry industry for 39 years and wages are lower now than in 1971. Why? The unions did themselves in by their unrealistic demands. The meat and poultry industries operate on a very small profit margin. Competition is even more intense today, what do the unions propose?