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March 1, 2011

MAJOR WORKER ORGANIZATIONS URGE SUPREME COURT TO UPHOLD CIVIL RIGHTS AND WORKERS

Washington, DC – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), AFL-CIO, and Change to Win have filed a joint amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the plaintiffs in the Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., sex discrimination case. The full brief can be found here.

A joint statement follows:

“For more than 45 years, American workers have sought protection from the courts for equal treatment in the workplace.  Workers have joined together to remedy widespread discriminatory workplace practices through class action proceedings and by applying the nation’s civil rights standards to their workplaces.  Today, Walmart is attempting to undo that standard by claiming its female associates have no right to appeal for justice as a class.

In our amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, we ask the court to uphold the fundamental pillar of the Civil Rights Act and to ensure that the class action process remains open to workers in all industries.

Walmart is not too big for justice.  No employer should be beyond justice for its workers. Workers must have a voice in the legal process.  The cost to Walmart if it loses the suit would be a fair recompensation for billions of dollars in lost wages and benefits owed to female employees who have lost opportunities as a result of Walmart’s discriminatory actions.

With more than 1.4 million associates nationwide, Walmart has single-handedly transformed the American economy by setting workplace standards by which all other retailers and employers are forced to compete. Because Walmart’s employment practices are so influential, its female associates must be allowed to have their day in court.  We congratulate the brave women who initiated this complaint and who seek to create a Walmart workplace that treats all associates equally.”

To read the amicus brief, click here. For more information on the Dukes v. Walmart Stores case, visit www.walmartclass.com

 

September 30, 2010

UFCW President Joe Hansen New Chair of Change to Win

WASHINGTON, DC The Change to Win (CtW) Leadership Council elected Joe Hansen, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) President, as its new Chair. Hansen replaces Anna Burger who earlier had announced her retirement from CtW where she served as Chair.   Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa was elected CtW Secretary-Treasurer.

Change to Win unions, the UFCW, SEIU, the Teamsters and Farm Workers represent millions of private-sector unionized workforces in the U.S. Change to Win members work in the fastest growing industries in the country in service-sector jobs, including transportation, health care, food production and retail, among others.

The following is a statement from Joe Hansen:

“Change to Win is focused on ensuring that workers in the various service sectors have jobs with wages and benefits that can support a family. If these jobs are vital to the American economy, then service sector jobs should come with middle class wages and benefits.

“We know that a stronger labor movement is essential to the rebuilding of America’s middle class and that will be the primary focus of our work at Change to Win.

“”We will continue our strategic work building strength for workers in our core industries.

“We will continue our advocacy on key public policy issues, including labor law, pension, and comprehensive immigration reform, food safety and health care. We are also committed to working with the Administration to ensure that the purchasing power of the federal government exercises wise stewardship of taxpayer money by promoting quality, family-supporting jobs.

“We will continue close coordination with our labor partners at the AFL-CIO on public policy issues. Both labor Federations share unity of purpose to address the crisis facing American workers.

Change to Win and the AFL-CIO will work together to make sure that candidates that support working families win in November.

The Change to Win unions are more inspired than ever to stand up for workers’ rights and make the economy grow again for working families through good jobs in every community.””

James P. Hoffa, General President of the Teamsters stated: “”The United States is the first country where a majority of its citizens joined the middle class. Labor unions created that middle class. No country in the world has ever had a strong middle class without a strong labor movement. And like all social movements, the labor movement was born fighting. Our work is far from over today, and Joe Hansen is the kind of leader we need in our fight to strengthen America’s working families.”

Said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry: “”Joe Hansen’s determination to make sure that 5,000 Smithfield workers had the chance to vote for the union after 16 years is exactly the leadership we need to rededicate Change to Win to lifting wages for millions of private sector workers.””

UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez said: “”I want to congratulate Joe on his new position, there is no doubt in my mind that he is the right person to move the organization forward. I’m sure that he will continue to ensure that Change To Win leads the way in developing new strategies, new programs and new efforts to effectively organize workers in the private sector.””

March 19, 2010

AFL-CIO, SEIU, UFCW URGE SENATE LEADERS TO MOVE COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM FORWARD

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.

Sincerely,

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

Background:

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:

 

September 17, 2009

STATEMENT BY JOE HANSEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FOOD AND COMMERICAL WORKERS UNION, ON ON UNITE HERE AFL-CIO AFFILIATION

“”The UFCW respects the decision by UNITE HERE to return to the AFL-CIO.  The disputes involving UNITE HERE and SEIU have been difficult for all concerned. It is my hope that this decision could establish the kind of distance and calm to bring an end to a dispute that has served as a distraction for too long. I believe a resolution is within grasp of the parties, and I’m hopeful that an expeditious and fair settlement can be reached.

“We will continue to work closely with UNITE HERE and all unions in our efforts to advance the cause of working people.”

September 1, 2009

UFCW, Partners Announce New Agenda Challenging Walmart to Change Practices for the Sake of the American Economy

Washington, DC – UFCW International Vice President and Director Pat O’Neill today announced a new national comprehensive American values-driven agenda to hold Walmart accountable to its workers, our communities and the planet.  He was joined by Nelson Lichtenstein, author of The Retail Revolution: How Walmart Created a Brave New World of Business, and Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice on a call to launch a broad coalition of labor, environmental and community groups who are calling on Walmart to join them in supporting the core American values of worker rights, quality jobs, equal opportunity, corporate responsibility and a healthy environment.

“Labor Day is an important time to reflect on the state of the American workplace and worker.  As the world’s largest retailer, and America’s number one private employer, Walmart has the largest, most profound impact on jobs and on our economy,” O’Neill said.  “Nobody wants an economy where workers earn wages that can’t support a family. Nobody wants an economy where people who go to work everyday and work hard have to turn to public assistance for basic needs.

“The Department of Labor last week released a report showing that the retail sector will see tremendous growth in the coming years, and it is up to all of us to determine what kinds of jobs those will be.  We are trying to engage Walmart, not isolate it.  With 1.4 million Americans working in its stores, Walmart bears a unique responsibility to its workers and our communities, and we’re asking them to embrace this challenge.”

On the conference call, O’Neill issued direct challenges to Walmart in five key areas:  worker rights, quality jobs, equal opportunity, corporate responsibility and a healthy environment.  He then laid out next steps for how the coalition, led by the UFCW, will hold Walmart accountable for those challenges, and to the ideals it puts forth in its advertising.

The full American Values Agenda for Change at Walmart can be viewed at http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/feature/commonsense/.

Additionally, Lichtenstein asserted Walmart’s vast impact on the American economy.

“When a company gets to be as big as Wal-Mart and employs so many workers – more than any other private enterprise in the world – it is no longer a ‘private’ entity,” Lichtenstein said. “It sets the wage and benefit standard for every other mass retailer and influences the business practices of just about every firm in America’s huge service sector. So Wal-Mart is part of this country’s debate: on health care, wages, equal employment, and the role of trade unionism in our democracy.”

Coalition members include:  AFL-CIO, Change to Win, Sierra Club, Campaign for America’s Future, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, National Consumers League, AFSCME, American Rights at Work, Communications Workers of America, Interfaith Worker Justice, LIUNA, National Labor Coordinating Committee, Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Auto Workers, United Farmer Workers and United Steel Workers.

As a part of the launch of this important new campaign, WakeUpWalmart.com will be releasing two new television advertisements called “Common Sense Economics Rules”  calling on Walmart to offer quality, affordable health care coverage to all its employees. Both ads highlight Walmart’s failure to cover 700,000 of its employees, nearly half of its workforce. They end with the message “Walmart can afford to be a better employer; Now would be a good time to start.”

The ads can be viewed at:  http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/video/commonsense/.

May 12, 2009

Local 1529 Holds Community Forum Calling on Congress to Pass Employee Free Choice

UFCW Local 1529 members and community leaders met on May 7th in a community forum to discuss how the current economic crisis affects their livelihoods and offer Main Street solutions to hard working Americans. The town hall meeting in West Memphis, Arkansas, was part of a statewide and national mobilization of everyday working Americans who are coming together to bring about change in the workplace through passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

Speakers included Leo Chapman, former mayor of West Memphis and first
African American elected to that position, Irvin Calliste, International
Representative for the Steelworkers’ Union and President of the
Memphis AFL-CIO Labor Council, and Billy Myers, International
Representative for the United Food & Commercial Workers Union.

At the meeting, Chapman said workers would have more opportunities if it were easier to join a union. “”Look at the people where they’re behind, if
they were unionizing they would be in a better position than they are
today. We want to enjoy the same rights and privileges as anyone else.”

Calliste noted that unions are a core part of our country, saying, “Because of unions, this country thrived. It’s not a coincidence that when union membership declined, the middle class started declining with it. Unions are responsible for the great middle class in this country.”

Billy Myers urged UFCW and community members to mobilize for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would level the playing field so workers can have more opportunities to get ahead. “I tell the workers it’s illegal [the company anti-union campaigns]. They can’t fire you for union activities. But in the back of my mind, I know it happens. Right now there’s no level playing field, the company has all the power. We must change that.”

Passing Employee Free Choice is crucial to growing the middle class and building an economy that works for everyone.  It will allow workers to have a voice at work and to bargain collectively for higher wages, benefits, and job security.  The bill seeks to level the playing field between workers and their employers because it would give workers–not their employers–the power to choose to join a union either through majority sign-up or through an election.

May 1, 2009

UFCW STATEMENT REGARDING DHS GUIDELINES ON WORKPLACE RAIDS

WASHINGTON – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today released the following statement in response to an announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the agency would be making policy changes with regard to workplace immigration raids:

“This announcement marks an important shift in policy that will end the heavy handed, headline-grabbing tactics that were the hallmark of the Bush administration.

“It is clear that the Bush administration used workplace raids as an attempt to cover up its failure to address the broader challenge of addressing the root causes of our broken immigration system. The result was workplace raids that led to clear Constitutional violations, including the detention of U.S. citizens, as well as the devastation and destruction of innocent families and communities.

“The announcement today is an important step in the right direction. It creates a system that will punish bad employers. It will help ensure that businesses that try to game the system, exploit vulnerable workers or attempt to drive down wages and working conditions are held accountable.

“But, as President Obama has said, we cannot address immigration reform in a piecemeal fashion, we must do it comprehensively. Enforcement is only one part of this issue.

“Change to Win and the AFL-CIO recently unveiled an immigration framework that will address all of the interconnecting parts of this complicated issue. We look forward to working closely with Congress and the Obama administration to pass an immigration system that works for America’s workers, and that upholds the values of our nation.

“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.”

April 22, 2009

Bruno

BIRMINGHAM, AL – On Monday evening, the membership of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1657 began taking steps to authorize a strike in the event that Bruno’s and Food World stores are sold to a company that won’t commit to rehiring workers under a new contract. Local 1657 members have already voted at several locations, and balloting in the rest of Alabama and Florida will continue throughout the week.

“Bruno’s workers have given too much to this company to have their careers and livelihoods tossed aside in a fire sale,” said Elaise Fox, president of UFCW Local 1657. “We are eager to work with any buyer that will commit to retaining a majority of current employees with fair wages and benefits. However, we will not stand idly by if a new owner uses Bruno’s self-inflicted financial woes as an excuse to pad its corporate bottom line by destroying thousands of good jobs.”

The current contract between Bruno’s and Local 1657 includes a no strike/no lockout clause. Accordingly, a strike would only be authorized in the event that US Bankruptcy Judge Benjamin Cohen rules in favor of Bruno’s motion to void the existing contract, and a new owner refused to negotiate a contract with the workers.

“”The people who work at Food World and Bruno’s are our neighbors, our congregants, and our families,” said Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, an interfaith community organization representing more than twenty congregations in the Birmingham area.  “While the absentee managers who drove this company into the ground ask for huge bonuses, the local employees that are the backbone of Bruno’s are left to fend for themselves. We all hope that a strike can be avoided, but if it comes to that our community will stand with these workers, these neighbors, through thick and thin.”

The assets of Bruno’s Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in February, are scheduled to be sold at auction on April 29. Fearing the exploitation of Bruno’s employees at the hands of a bidder that won’t protect high-quality grocery jobs, a number of community leaders and organizations have called on Bruno’s to craft an agreement that “both keeps these stores open and keeps these workers in jobs with living wages and benefits.”

Signatories to the letter (which appears below) included Alabama State Senator Phil Poole, Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot, the Jefferson County Central Labor Council, the Birmingham Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Alabama and Birmingham chapters of the NAACP, the Alabama AFL-CIO, and Greater Birmingham Ministries.

UFCW Local 1657, based in Birmingham, represents more than 3,500 grocery and health care workers in Alabama and Florida.

______________________________________________________________________

Mr. James Grady

Chief Restructuring Officer
Bruno’s Supermarkets, Inc.
1800 International Park Drive
Birmingham, AL 35243

Dear Mr. Grady:

We are writing regarding the ongoing negotiations for Bruno’s Supermarkets and our concerns about the fate of the workers at these stores.

More than two thousand of our constituents work at Bruno’s. They are the backbone of this community. They are shoppers, they are taxpayers, they are caretakers and, above all else, they are our neighbors.

To ask loyal workers to bear the brunt of Bruno’s mismanagement would cause irreparable damage to this community. Bruno’s made a promise to these workers, and it should not be allowed to renege on that promise while other options still exist. Alabama can not afford to lose thousands of good jobs: the wages and benefits earned by Bruno’s employees help support every other business in the state. The contract Bruno’s entered into is, in these challenging economic times, the only barrier between Alabamans and a race to the bottom.

We urge you to do everything in your power to find a solution that both keeps these stores open and keeps these workers in jobs with living wages and important benefits. We believe that the company, potential buyers, and the workers and their union can find a compromise that does exactly that.

We will continue to monitor this case closely. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance in resolving this situation.

Sincerely,

[Signatory individuals and organizations]

April 14, 2009

CHANGE TO WIN AND AFL-CIO UNVEIL UNIFIED IMMIGRATION REFORM FRAMEWORK

United labor movement shows importance of
addressing issue during 111th Congress

 WASHINGTON – Joseph T. Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and chair of the Change to Win Immigration Task Force, and John Sweeney, International President of the AFL-CIO, today unveiled a unified framework for comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

The joint announcement and proposal is a critical sign of support for the Administration and Congress to address immigration reform – and to ensure that it remains a priority on the legislative calendar. It is also an important sign that immigration reform is an important part of economic recovery.

“We need an immigration system that works for America’s workers,” said President Hansen. “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. This framework is a roadmap toward real reform—reform that addresses the needs of our nation’s workers, families and communities. This framework is about moving America forward. 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.”

“”Our nation’s broken immigration system isn’t working for anybody –not immigrant workers who are routinely exploited by companies and not U.S. born workers whose living standards are being undermined by the creation of a new “”underclass.””  As a part of broad-based economic recovery, we need a comprehensive solution — and soon.  The development of a unified labor position, a position centered on workers’ rights, puts us on the path to a legislative solution,”” said President Sweeney.  “The labor movement will speak in one voice to address this pressing issue with Congress and the White House to create a system that protects all workers — those who work in our shadow economy and those who have full rights.”

Sweeney and Hansen also were joined by Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Arturo Rodriquez, President of the United Farm Workers (UFW), in making the announcement. Both Medina and Rodriguez have been national leaders on immigration reform and played a key role in the formation of the immigration framework.

“As we face the most serious recession since the Great Depression—as healthcare costs skyrocket, income disparity grows, and the middle class continues to shrink—the American public wants fundamental reform of economic and social policies that have benefited the few at the expense of the working majority,” said Medina “Immigration reform is no exception. Today’s unified agreement is a major step forward that will, combined with the continued leadership of President Obama, Vice President Biden and bipartisan leadership in Congress, profoundly improve the future of all workers and build a stronger American economy for our children and grandchildren.”

“Today’s unity statement is a recognition of the dire need to have immigration laws that work and work for all workers,” said President Rodriguez.  “Too many workers – both U.S. and immigrant are exploited by the current system and that needs to change.  The United Farm Workers, Change to Win and the AFL-CIO came together because we can no longer be delayed.”

President Obama recently reiterated his support for immigration reform and stated that real reform cannot be completed in a piecemeal fashion

The Unity Framework, which was developed in consultation with Former Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall and the Economic Policy Institute, provides a comprehensive plan for addressing immigration reform.

“”Immigration reform is a core issue for the labor movement,”” said Ray Marshall, former Secretary of Labor.  “”I am pleased to have assisted the unions in coming together to support an approach framed around protecting workers rights.””

The labor proposal adheres to the Administration’s goals by creating a framework that deals with the critical components of reform and does it through interconnected initiatives. The proposal calls for:  (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.

In the coming weeks, representatives from labor will be meeting with key Congressional and Administration staff to discuss the framework and how best to move the issue forward. The groups have also briefed key activists and advocates about the framework and will be working closely with these vital allies in the coming months.

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.

Family reunification is an important goal of immigration policy and it is the national interest for it to remain that way.  First, families strongly influence individual and national welfare.  Families have historically facilitated the assimilation of immigrants into American life.  Second, the failure to allow family reunification creates strong pressures for unauthorized immigration, as happened with IRCA’s amnesty provisions.  Third, families are the most basic learning institutions, teaching children values as well as skills to succeed in school, society, and at work.  Finally, families are important economic units that provide valuable sources of entrepreneurship, job training, support for members who are unemployed and information and networking for better labor market information.

The long-term solution to uncontrolled immigration is to stop promoting failed globalization policies and encourage just and humane economic integration, which will eliminate the enormous social and economic inequalities at both national and international levels.  U.S. immigration policy should consider the effects of immigration reforms on immigrant source countries, especially Mexico.  It is in our national interest for Mexico to be a prosperous and democratic country able to provide good jobs for most of its adult population, thereby ameliorating strong pressures for emigration.   Much of the emigration from Mexico in recent years resulted from the disruption caused by NAFTA, which displaced millions of Mexicans from subsistence agriculture and enterprises that could not compete in a global market.  Thus, an essential component of the long term solution is a fair trade and globalization model that uplifts all workers, promotes the creation of free trade unions around the world, ensures the enforcement of labor rights, and guarantees all workers core labor protections.

1.  Future Flow

One of the great failures of our current employment-based immigration system is that the level of legal work-based immigration is set arbitrarily by Congress as a product of political compromise —without regard to real labor market needs—and it is rarely updated to reflect changing circumstances or conditions.  This failure has allowed unscrupulous employers to manipulate the system to the detriment of workers and reputable employers alike.  The system for allocating employment visas—both temporary and permanent—should be depoliticized and placed in the hands of an independent commission that can assess labor market needs on an ongoing basis and—based on a methodology approved by Congress–determine the number of foreign workers to be admitted for employment purposes, based on labor market needs.  In designing the new system, and establishing the methodology to be used for assessing labor shortages, the Commission will be required to examine the impact of immigration on the economy, wages, the workforce and business.

2. Worker authorization mechanism

The current system of regulating the employment of unauthorized workers is defunct, ineffective and has failed to curtail illegal immigration.  A secure and effective worker authorization mechanism is one that determines employment authorization accurately while providing maximum protection for workers, contains sufficient due process and privacy protections, and prevents discrimination.  The verification process must be taken out of the hands of employers, and the mechanism must rely on secure identification methodology.  Employers who fail to properly use the system properly must face strict liability including significant fines and penalties regardless of the immigration status of their workers.

3. Rational Operational Control of the Border

A new immigration system must include rational control of our borders.  Border security is clearly very important, but not sufficient, since 40 to 45 percent of unauthorized immigrants did not cross the border unlawfully, but overstayed visas.  Border controls therefore must be supplemented by effective work authorization and other components of this framework.  An “enforcement-only” policy will not work.  Practical border controls balance border enforcement with the other components of this framework and with the reality that over 30 million valid visitors cross our borders each year.  Enforcement therefore should respect the dignity and rights of our visitors, as well as residents in border communities.  In addition, enforcement authorities must understand that they need cooperation from communities along the border. Border enforcement is likely to be most effective when it focuses on criminal elements and engages immigrants and border community residents in the enforcement effort.  Similarly, border enforcement is most effective when it is left to trained professional border patrol agents and not vigilantes or local law enforcement officials—who require cooperation from immigrants to enforce state and local laws.

4. Adjustment of Status for the Current Undocumented Population

Immigration reform must include adjustment of status for the current undocumented population.  Rounding up and deporting the 12 million or more immigrants who are unlawfully present in the U.S. may make for a good sound bite, but it is not a realistic solution.  And if these immigrants are not given adequate incentive to “come out of the shadows” to adjust their status, we will continue to have a large pool of unauthorized workers whom employers will continue to exploit in order to drive down wages and other standards, to the detriment of all workers.   Having access to a large undocumented workforce has allowed employers to create an underground economy, without the basic protections afforded to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, and where employers often misclassify workers as independent contractors, thus evading payroll taxes, which deprives federal, state, and local governments of additional revenue.  An inclusive, practical and swift adjustment of status program will raise labor standards for all workers.  The adjustment process must be rational, reasonable and accessible and it must be designed to ensure that it will not encourage future illegal immigration.

5. Improvement, not Expansion, of Temporary Worker Programs

The United States must improve the administration of existing temporary worker programs, but should not adopt a new “indentured” or “guest worker” initiative.  Our country has long recognized that it is not good policy for a democracy to admit large numbers of workers with limited civil and employment rights.

November 15, 2007

AFL-CIO and UFCW Welcome New Worker Safety Rule

(Washington, Nov. 14) – – The AFL-CIO and UFCW today welcomed OSHA’s announcement that the agency will finally issue the rule requiring employers to pay for personal protective safety equipment – a measure that will prevent tens of thousands of workplaces injuries every year.

“”It is unfortunate that nine years have passed since the rule was proposed, and that it took a lawsuit by the unions and Congressional intervention before the Bush Administration would act,”” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “”America’s working men and women deserve the proper equipment to keep them safe on the job, each and every day, and we will thoroughly review this rule to make sure it protects them.””

“”Workers have spoken out for this rule and now Congress and the courts have forced the DOL to act. Our members will be watching to see this rule is enforced in every workplace,”” said Joseph Hansen, UFCW International President. “”Workers should no longer be required to dip into their own pocket to keep themselves safe from harm at work.””

Both the litigation and the FY 2008 Labor-HHS funding bill set a deadline of November 30, 2007 for final action by OSHA.

This rule is a basic requirement that codifies OSHA’s long-standing policy that it is the employer’s responsibility to pay the cost of protecting workers from safety and health hazards. The rule makes clear that employers must pay for hard hats, goggles, face shields, chemical resistant suits, and other required safety equipment. It does, however, include some exemptions from the employer payment requirements, most notably for safety shoes and prescription safety glasses that can be worn off the job.

The AFL-CIO and UFCW will be reviewing the rule in detail to determine if it provides workers with the level of protection that is needed and required by law.

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For more information about workplace safety and personal protective equipment, click here.