Delegates to the Minnesota AFL-CIO convention passed two strongly worded resolutions putting the labor movement firmly in front of the effort to support immigrants and challenge the Bush administration?s attack on civil liberties.
Hundreds of union members from across the state are meeting at the Minneapolis Hilton for the annual convention, where they set policy for the 400,000-member labor federation. They also discussed the upcoming Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride.
On Tuesday, delegates approved a resolution introduced by Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Local 17, endorsing local and state legislation that keeps responsibility for enforcing immigration law with federal authorities. Specifically, it states that city, county, state and school district employees will not gather immigration-related information unless there is a compelling reason, such as the need to demonstrate eligibility for a certain program.
The resolution endorses legislation similar to the ordinance adopted in Minneapolis this summer.
Supporters said immigrant workers are being targeted unfairly and that taking on immigration enforcement duties would make it harder for public employees to do their jobs. Human Rights Committee Chair Rita During cited the example of a public health nurse who was treating a patient for tuberculosis. She said the overriding public good is served if that nurse can win the trust of the patient and prevent the spread of the disease, rather than worrying about their residency status.
Defending civil liberties
Delegates also passed another resolution sponsored by HERE Local 17 titled ?Defense of Civil Rights and Liberties.? It states that, in its zeal to win a ?self-declared war on terrorism,? the Bush administration ?is willing to sell out the foundations of U.S. democracy.?
The resolution calls for repeal of the USA Patriot Act; rescinding the rule permitting government eavesdropping on attorney-client conversations; rescinding the executive order for military tribunals; releasing the identities of government detainees and the reasons for their detention; an end to profiling based on race, ethnicity, religion and national origin; and an ?end to corporate favors under the guise of national interests.?
The resolution goes on to state: ?We intend to challenge, at every opportunity, the assertion by Attorney General John Ashcroft and other opportunist politicians that opposing their attempt to dismantle the constitution is unpatriotic and is equal to terrorism. We intend to continue questioning all contra-constitutional programs until they are stopped.?
Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride
John Wilhelm, international president of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union, briefed delegates on the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride to be held at the end of September. Buses will leave nine communities, including the Twin Cities, make dozens of stops along the route, then converge in Washington D.C. and in New York near the Statue of Liberty for large events in support of immigrant rights.
Wilhelm is spearheading the labor movement?s efforts surrounding the ride, which is being organized by a coalition of ethnic, community and religious groups.
Momentum was building for reform of immigration laws when the terrorist attacks happened on Sept. 11, 2001, Wilhelm said. Since the attacks, immigrants have been unfairly targeted, scapegoated and intimidated, he said.
?But these acts were not committed by immigrants, they were committed by criminals. . . . . We didn?t go after white, native-born Americans in the wake of (the) Oklahoma City (bombing). We went after the criminals who did those deeds . . . All immigrants have paid a terrible price since 9/11, even those legally in this country. In fact, everyone who cares about civil rights and civil liberties has paid a terrible price.?
Wilhelm said immigrants need the support of the labor movement and unions need the participation of immigrants.
?I believe that it?s not an exaggeration to say that the Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride is the next great step we need to take to insure our country?s future and our labor movement?s future,? he said.
For more information
Visit the website for the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, www.iwfr.org