At the New York Daily News, Ginger Adams Otis reports that Teamsters in New York City and Long Island are readying to become a “sanctuary union,” educating workers and supervisors about their rights under U.S. law, when and how to challenge federal immigration officials who show up at workplaces, and the technicalities of warrants and raids.
Otis writes that “in fundamental labor terms, it follows one simple rule: union solidarity first, immigration status second.” The actions were sparked by the deportation of Eber Garcia Vasquez, 54, a Teamster and father of three U.S.-born children who was sent back to Guatemala despite having no criminal record and two pending green card applications. She writes:
Furious Teamsters picketed outside 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan, demanding Garcia be returned home. “We were all appalled at what happened to Eber,” Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda told the Daily News at a sanctuary training meeting last week.
“Eber is part of our family — we in the Teamsters rely on each other to get through the tough times,” he said.
Many Teamsters are white, blue-collar men — a demographic that in some unions skewed toward Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
But the organization — which covers a variety of fields, including airlines, truckers, dairy farmers and more — also has a sizable share of immigrant workers, roughly a third, 40,000.
After what happened to Garcia — one of many recent forced deportations — worry ran through Teamster shops, Miranda said. “We saw and felt that concern, and we are responding to it. And that includes all our members, from all backgrounds. When we’re out on strike, we’re all the same on the picket line — what matters is that you’re a Teamster, and fighting with us.”
Read the full story at New York Daily News.
In other news:
ProPublica: Michael Grabell and Howard Berkes report that a new bill in the Florida legislature would stop insurance companies from skipping out on workplace injury compensation for unauthorized immigrants by aiding in their deportations. Legally, all workers — regardless of immigration status — are eligible for such compensation, however a 2003 state law made it a crime to file a worker injury claim using false identification. The law, advocates say, meant irresponsible employers could more easily take safety shortcuts with immigrants workers, knowing they wouldn’t be liable for injuries and illnesses on the job. Grabell and Berkes exposed the problem in an investigation published last year, finding more than 130 cases in which immigrants injured on the job were flagged to law enforcement by their employers’ insurance companies. The reporters write: “The new bill, introduced by state Sen. Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, would eliminate the false identity provision and clarify the statute so that it applies only to people who commit traditional workers’ comp fraud, such as lying about injuries or eligibility for benefits.”
USA Today: Paul Davidson reports that thousands of low-wage workers in nearly 50 cities took to the streets this week, reviving the Fight for $15 movement and calling for the right to unionize. Protests coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, which was a focal point of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign. In Memphis, Davidson reports, more than 100 activists rallied outside a McDonald’s, briefly shutting down the street and chanting, “If we don’t get it, shut it down!” In Detroit, fast food workers, janitors and hospital workers walked off the job around noon, rallying for a $15 minimum wage; and in Milwaukee, organizers rallied outside the airport to call for fairer wages for concession workers. In writing about the Memphis rally, Davidson reports: “Seeing the rally nearby, 28-year-old Burger King employee Robin Curtis said she made a split-second decision to walk out on her job of about six months, telling her manager, ‘Time for a change.’”
Chicago Tribune: In an opinion column, Dahleen Glanton writes about the death of social worker Pamela Sue Knight, who died this month from injuries sustained during a violent beating four months ago while trying to remove a 2-year-old child from an abusive home. Knight had attempted to take the child into custody in September, when the father knocked her down, kicked her in the head and fractured her skull. In an investigation published last year, the Tribune found at least a dozen cases since 2013 in which Department of Children and Family Services workers were attacked or threatened as they visited homes to investigate child abuse. Glanton writes: “Let’s think about the thousands of children whose lives are saved because someone like Knight was willing to risk their own safety to remove them from a dangerous situation.”
CNN: Heather Kelly reports on news that Amazon has won a pair of patents for new tracking wristbands, raising concerns about workplace surveillance. The wristbands aren’t yet in use at Amazon fulfillment warehouses, but if used, would track each product a worker handles and guide a worker’s movements throughout the day. An Amazon spokesperson says the gadgets would be focused on tracking inventory, but employment advocates worry it could cause increased anxiety and stress among workers already under significant pressure. Kelly writes: “Amazon warehouse employees have complained of difficult working conditions for years. Issues raised include intense pressure to reach goals and work faster, strictly enforced rules, short breaks, low morale, and physically demanding work for low pay.”