Immigrants are people too!
an article by Joe Yannielli
You know their faces. They clean the floors of your building. They make your meals when you go out for a treat. They tuck in your sheets when you stay at a fancy motel. You glance at them from the corner of your eye, their rough skin emerges from the shadows, a blank expression, their eyes sink downwards, surrounded by a halo of dirt. You try not to watch as they move slowly, rhythmically, performing their ritual task. It's hard, repetitive work and you know it. It pains you to watch, so you don't. You hurry off to your destination. You focus on your schedule for the day, the friends you'll see, the work you have to do, where you want to eat your dinner. And soon you forget. Until the next day, the awkward glance as you pass by. And that face, that determined, beaten, painful face burns a hole in your mind again. Is this a person? It's there every day, performing the same bizarre ritual. And every day, you pass by without a word, nothing but a brief glance soon forgotten.
There are millions of immigrants living and working in America right now. They work the hardest for the least. And yet they are forgotten. They do not have the same civil rights. They are forced into accepting the most oppressive work conditions with no hope of a union. They pay taxes and social security, but receive none of the benefits. And, thanks to unconstitutional laws pushed forward by the Bush administration, they can be stripped of everything they have and deported without so much as a trial or chance to speak with their families.
On October 4th, many of these heroic individuals and their supporters will converge on New York after two weeks of touring the country. Modeled on the Freedom Rides of the 60s, which helped win equal rights for African Americans in the segregated South, the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride will expose the public to a harsh reality. Peace cannot flourish as long as others remain oppressed.
To see when the Freedom Riders will pass through your area, or to help out, visit www.iwfr.org.
Question(s) related to this article:
Should illegal immigrants be protected?,
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LATEST READER COMMENT:
The news report of a merger between HERE, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union and UNITE, the clothing, textiles and laundry union, is important news for all workers including illegal immigrants, because these unions are in the forefront of organizing immigrant workers and assuring their rights.
By bringing immigrant workers into the trade union movement, these unions promote worker unity and deny unscrupulous employers the option of pitting one group of workers against another.
This is a great step forward for the American labor movement which did not support union rights for illegal immigrants during the 19th and 20th Centuries.
And, of course, it is a great step forward for immigrant workers at the same time.
The new union will represent 440,000 active members and more than 400,000 retirees throughout North America. The tentative agreement is expected to be ratified with a vote by rank-and-file members at a special joint convention in Chicago in July. . .
UNITE and HERE have collaborated most recently in the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, the successful struggle for a fair contract for Yale workers, and in the current effort to unionize H&M retail and distribution workers. . .
UNITE historically represents workers in the apparel and textile industries, and more recently has organized industrial laundries, distribution centers and workers in light manufacturing. HERE members are in the hospitality industries, working in hotels, airports, casinos, food service, and restaurants. Though there are places where the industries overlap, particularly in hospitality and laundry, the merger is primarily a reflection of the two unions' shared values and priorities: social justice economic opportunity, civil rights, the rights of immigrant workers and a commitment to organizing unrepresented workers. . .
"This is a non-traditional merger of two non-traditional unions," says HERE President John Wilhelm. "Our outstanding members and staff are recognized even outside of the labor movement; both unions are regarded for their work on behalf of progressive causes. The HERE Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride brought together activists of every stripe,and UNITE is largely responsible for developing the anti-sweatshop movement in the U.S.and Canada."
UNITE HERE will be headquartered in New York City.The new union will combine the complete resources and assets of each organization, including the $3.6 billion Amalgamated Bank, the only union-owned bank in North America.
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