UNITE HERE, Teamsters Fight for Immigrant Members

The situation for immigrants in the United States continues to grow bleaker. The president has ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; the administration is targeting cities whose police don’t want to serve as adjunct Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers; legislative proposals call for reducing legal immigration.

Our nation’s labor unions represent millions of immigrant workers, including some who are undocumented, and are moving forward to defend these brothers and sisters. Bloomberg News reports how the hotel workers’ union (UNITE HERE) is making it a key contract demand in negotiations with employers.

UNITE HERE says curbing collaboration with ICE will be a priority in bargaining for the 270,000 hotel, casino, and food-service workers it represents, almost half of whose contracts expire within the next year.  “We know the companies that we have relationships with are going to comply with the law,” says D. Taylor, the union’s international president. “We just don’t want them to do anything that makes it easier for ICE to come in and just take people away.”

New York’s Teamsters, meanwhile, are raising the cause of a long-time member, Eber Garcia Vasquez, who was deported to Guatemala after 26 years in the country. George Miranda, President of Teamsters’ Joint Council 17, explained to In These Times that they have become a “Sanctuary Union.”

Immigrants’ rights and labor rights are explicitly tied together. You can’t have one without the other. If you lose on one issue, whether it is immigrants or labor, you lose the other. It is obvious that we are tied together, and there is no way that we could say that we are not a union of immigrants… we have decided to be a sanctuary union, meaning that we protect our members. They are working, they are earning their living, they are supporting their families, and they are not doing anything that is criminal or whatever. We are not going to cooperate with the immigration service whatsoever in going after our members.

Scripture tells us, “You shall not oppress a resident alien (Ex 23:9).” The Catholic Labor Network salutes the Teamsters, UNITE HERE, and the many other unions that have stepped up to defend the rights of immigrants.