Labor Unions Work Together For Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Members of Congress are speaking out just days after President Obama’s inauguration speech, which resonated with labor unions. For the first time in decades, unions and migrant laborers are working together for a comprehensive immigration plan, according to ABC News. In 2007, labor unions parted ways to form two groups: the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win.

Talking Points Memo recently reported that Service Employees International Union and AFL-CIO, which have often been considered rival organizations, have both stated that a bill to allow a path to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants is a top priority.

“The inequality created by our current immigration system is having a deeper effect on our society then anything we’ve seen in recent history,” Ana Avendaño, assistant to the president and director of immigration and community action at AFL-CIO, told TPM. “We have 11.5 million people who really are not benefiting from the hard fought gains that the labor movement and other social movements have accomplished in this country.”

Immigration reform could increase pay for low-wage workers and boost union enrollment. AFL-CIO and Change to Win outlined five principles of immigration reform that were used in 2009 and still serve as the guidelines used today. These guidelines include a rational control of the border, improved workplace systems to verify that employees can legally work in the United States and better management of the influx of immigrant workers to adhere to labor market demands.

Not all union groups have agreed on the same stance toward guest worker programs, or the H-2 visa program, which grants seasonal or temporary visas to foreign natives who work in sectors like agriculture. Reform advocates claim that the current programs put those seeking jobs in danger of scams by guest worker recruiters.