Friday, June 25, 2010

Scapegoating immigrants won't help American workers

I met AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at the national march against SB 1070, Arizona's xenophobic law that institutionalizes racial profiling and scapegoats immigrants for America's economic problems.

Trumka ,whose parents migrated from Italy, was a keynote speaker at the march and rally in Phoenix of more than 50,000.

President Trumka condemned SB 1070 as a cynical attempt to divide the working class by criminalizing some of its hardest working and most exploited members.

In a recent speech Trumka explained:

Blaming immigrant workers for our economic catastrophe is like blaming shrimpers for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

An immigrant worker did not move your plant overseas. An immigrant did not take away your pension. A Mexican or Salvadoran or Guatemalan worker did not cut off your health care. His wife didn't foreclose your home. Her children did not crash our financial system.

BP was too greedy to drill that well safely. And many U.S. employers are too greedy to pay workers a living wage, or comply with health, safety and labor laws. They've got exactly the immigration system they want -- plenty of workers living and toiling in the shadows, borders that are closed enough to turn immigrants into second-class citizens and criminals but open enough to ensure an endless supply of socially and legally powerless cheap labor.

Gripped by our own economic insecurity, it's often hard to see immigrants as mothers and fathers who are just trying to make a living and take care of their families -- people pursuing the same goals and dreams the rest of us have. Maybe it's easier to identify with or side with the rich and powerful.

The entire speech is linked here. It is worth reading.

1 comment:

Peter said...

This is a great picture Michael. Trumka is one of the best leaders to happen to the AFL-CIO is a long time. He's more fiery and pugnacious than John Sweeney, and he seems to be grasp two important truths:

1. Organized labor is in crisis, especially in the private sector.

2. The future of organized labor must include fighting for all workers, black, brown, yellow, red and white -- and taking on right-wing politics across the board.

"Kicking ass for the working class" shouldn't just be a bumper sticker, it should be who we are and what we do. And "working class" means immigrant workers too. Glad to see Rich Trumka taking up the mantle, and thrilled to read and hear his words on this topic (among others).