March 19, 2010


WASHINGTON, D.CToday, Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern, and President of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka, sent a joint letter to Senators Lindsay Graham and Charles Schumer re-asserting labor’s unified position and unfailing commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform this spring. 

Full text of the joint letter follows.

Dear Senators Graham and Schumer:

We praise your continued leadership to reach across the aisle to craft a comprehensive fix to the broken immigration system that is prolonging the economic crisis and hurting working families.  We collectively represent over 15 million American workers, some born here and others who have migrated from elsewhere to work for this great country.  Although there are aspects of your plan that cause us concern, we view it as a work in progress, and we are confident that the details can be worked out as your framework is turned into legislation and works its way towards enactment.

Both U.S. born and immigrant  workers are badly served by our current broken immigration laws which allow employers to divide and exploit workers, are a drag on our nation’s economy, and cause unnecessary suffering.  We need to replace them with a system that levels the playing field as we fight for better wages and working conditions for all workers.

The labor movement came together about a year ago to urge passage of an immigration system that works better for America’s workers and we remain absolutely united in that goal. At that time, we explained that immigration reform must be a component of a shared prosperity agenda that raises the standard of living and quality of life of all workers.  Since then, we have rolled up our sleeves and worked hard to enact this sorely needed reform, including good faith efforts to find common ground with business and other diverse stakeholders around an immigration reform proposal that works for America.

That said, we feel strongly that it would be a mistake to enact any new employment-based visa program that does not adequately protect workers—both US and foreign-born—and that is not justified by filling established labor shortages.  We have proposed the establishment of an independent research-based commission that can accurately assess the need for foreign workers on an ongoing basis as our economy fluctuates and develops, which will satisfy the legitimate needs of employers and at the same time protect the interests of American workers   We look forward to discussing this proposal with you in the days to come.

We are a nation that respects hard work, family and the pursuit of the American Dream. Our immigration system must hold true to these principles.  This is an instance where upholding our principles is also good for the bottom line.  It is estimated that comprehensive immigration reform would grow the economy by as much as $1.5 trillion.

We believe that a just, fair and practical compromise is very much within reach if there is political leadership and if all sides are willing to agree on a framework that:

  • Preserves the rights of all workers,
  • Accurately matches the numbers and conditions of entry of newcomers to labor shortages in our economy with the flexibility necessary to meet the legitimate needs of employers, and
  • Is consistent with American values.

On behalf of America’s workers, we request immediate congressional action and look forward to working with you as you perfect your framework and translate it into legislation.  We stand ready to meet with business to discuss future flow and unified support for a comprehensive immigration bill and we ask business leaders to join us in this call. We urge Senators and Representatives of both parties to stand up to the divisive anti-immigrant bullies who seek to shout down sensible immigration solutions that are supported by the majority of the American people.  Let’s get this done right, and let’s do it this year.


Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW)

Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO


AFL-CIO/Change To Win Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Immigration reform is a component of a shared prosperity agenda that focuses on improving productivity and quality; limiting wage competition; strengthening labor standards, especially the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively; and providing social safety nets and high quality 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 most effective way to do that is for all workers–immigrant and native-born–to have full and complete access to the protection of labor, health and safety and other laws. Comprehensive immigration reform must complement a strong, well-resourced and effective labor standards enforcement initiative that prioritizes workers’ rights and workplace protections. This approach will ensure that immigration does not depress wages and working conditions or encourage marginal low-wage industries that depend heavily on substandard wages, benefits, and working conditions.

This approach to immigration reform has five major interconnected pieces: (1) an independent commission to assess and manage future flows, based on labor market shortages that are determined on the basis of actual need; (2) a secure and effective worker authorization mechanism; (3) rational operational control of the border; (4) adjustment of status for the current undocumented population; and (5) improvement, not expansion, of temporary worker programs, limited to temporary or seasonal, not permanent, jobs.

Read full framework: