The Brennan Center's Freedom of Information Law Requests related to the Countering Violent Extremism program.
Credible research and investigation demonstrates fraud by voters at the polls is exceedingly rare.
People working for the city of Atlanta received welcome news as the City Council unanimously passed a budget raising their wages. Starting on July 1, 2017, base pay for city employees will rise from $10.10 to $13 an hour. Even better news? By mid-2019, all city employees will earn a minimum of $15 an hour.
Now more than 1,000 people who sweep the city streets, maintain local parks, and put out fires will have a better chance at making ends meet. And this raise happened thanks to Atlanta Jobs With Justice.
The coalition of labor unions, community groups, faith-based organizations, student organizations, and individuals is on the front lines of organizing Atlantans to achieve economic and social justice.
In 2013, Atlanta Jobs With Justice held the city’s first Fight For $15 rally in support of brave men and women in the fast-food industry who went on strike to speak up for family-sustaining jobs. The event launched the coalition’s community-wide efforts to secure a long-overdue raise for those who make Atlanta work.
The wage increase is a notable development given that a study released this month showed a working person in Georgia needed to earn at least $16.79 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. The poverty rate of neighborhoods a stone’s throw from Atlanta’s City Hall approaches 70 percent.
A $15 wage means working people may no longer have to worry about getting evicted in a city with skyrocketing rents. The boost offers peace of mind for families wondering if they’ll have enough to feed their children, pay for transportation to and from work, and keep the lights on.
Most of all, it offers hope for a better life. As Neil Sardana, Atlanta Jobs With Justice coalition coordinator, shared, “Now with this vote, city workers can see a brighter future that provides for their basic needs, especially as the cost of living in the city has been rapidly increasing.”
Numerous organizations and leaders joined Atlanta Jobs With Justice and city workers to pave the way for this raise, including ATL Raise Up, AFSCME 1644, Atlanta Professional Firefighters, and Atlanta City Councilmembers Andre Dickens, Felicia Moore, and Carla Smith.
PACE Atlanta president Gina Pagnotta Murphy spoke to Bloomberg and celebrated the win. “It was the first time in a long time that the city came together in solidarity for city employees to make this victorious win.”
Economic progress is hard to come by in the South, and Atlanta is no exception. Georgia’s state minimum wage is just $5.15 an hour. The triumph for city employees represents the first step in the clarion call to ensuring everyone in the Peach State earns a fair return on their work.
Up next, Atlanta Jobs With Justice has its sights set on improving wages in other municipalities in the metropolitan area and for people working for the state of Georgia. “Let this victory tell all working people that we must continue our fight for progressive values and our community’s needs in spite of the recent surge in conservative ideology,” Shannan Reaze, executive director of Atlanta Jobs With Justice.
Victory in Atlanta is one more reminder than when working people come together; we win.
Unions Mobilize to Protect Undocumented Workers
By David Bacon
Truthout | Report 6/24/17
Local 2850 organizers and activists take part in an anti-Trump march in Oakland, California, after Trump’s ascension to the presidency. (Photo: David Bacon)
Sanctuary churches. Sanctuary schools. Sanctuary cities.
Albeit far from its intentions, the Trump administration has put the idea of sanctuaries on steroids — spaces free from the threat of raids and deportations. As immigrant workers, unions and their allies look for creative ways to counter anti-immigrant onslaughts, they’re adopting the sanctuary framework to deal with the dangers faced on the job.
This is not just a recent response to administration threats of increased enforcement. Immigrant workers have been battling jobsite raids and firings for many years, seeking ways to prevent la migra (immigration agents) from using their employment to sweep them into the enforcement net. Says Wei-Ling Huber, president of UNITE HERE Local 2850, the hotel union in the East Bay area of northern California, “When we go to work, we should be valued for the contributions we make, and we should be able to do our jobs free from fear of deportations.”
Those contributions should be obvious. One in every ten workers in California is undocumented. So are over half the nation’s farm laborers and 9 percent of its restaurant workers.
In April, Huber’s union went before the Oakland City Council, asking for a policy that would protect immigrants on the job. The council passed a resolution, noting it has been a “City of Refuge” since the anti-apartheid movement of the mid-1980s, a policy reaffirmed last November, just days after Trump’s election. “The City Council … calls upon all employers to establish safe/sanctuary workplaces where workers are respected and not threatened or discriminated against based on their immigration status,” the measure stated.
See the excellent photos here;
Local 2850 wanted the statement as a way to define public policy, but actual implementation of an enforcement-free workplace requires more than resolutions. Ten years ago, the union headed a fight in next-door Emeryville, when the Woodfin Suites, a hotel in the southern California-based chain, fired 12 immigrant women housekeepers. Emeryville had just passed a living-wage ordinance for hotel employees, and at the Woodfin Suites workers demanded its enforcement. The hotel accused the 12 women of not having legal immigration documents, and protests over the retaliatory firings went on for four years. Eventually the company had to pay several hundred thousand dollars in back pay. In the process, the Emeryville City Council became committed defenders of the housekeepers.
Moving further toward making the sanctuary workplace a reality, Local 2850 began negotiating protections into union contracts. The union is trying to make one key provision a standard, which cautions that “Should a federal immigration agent or a Department of Homeland Security agent demand entry into the Employer’s premises or the opportunity to interrogate, search or seize the person or property of any employee, then the Employer shall immediately notify the Union by telephone to the union’s office. Except as required by law, the Employer shall not permit the agent(s) to enter the premises without a valid warrant.”
The contract prohibits retaliation against workers because of their immigration status. Once the hotel accepts the documents provided by workers when they’re hired, it can’t go back later and use the government’s E-Verify database to revisit their immigration status.
The need for this was evident in a recent change in one hotel’s ownership, when the new owners wanted all the employees to submit new evidence of their legal status. The workers banded together and refused, thus protecting anyone who might have trouble doing so. The company backed down, and everyone went back to work. In San Francisco, when another boutique hotel chain changed hands, UNITE HERE Local 2 mobilized community pressure to stop the new owners from similarly re-verifying workers’ immigration status.
At issue is a provision of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which, for the first time in US history, prohibited employers from hiring undocumented workers. The law required employers to verify workers’ immigration status when they are hired, and led to the creation of the huge E-Verify database of all workers’ immigration status.
After 1986, undocumented workers could no longer apply for Social Security numbers. Since then, to get hired, workers without papers have made up numbers or used those of other people. Employers deduct contributions from their paychecks for Social Security — about $13 billion/year. But workers without papers can’t collect the benefits the contributions pay for. In the meantime, the government uses the discrepancy in numbers as a tool for immigration enforcement.
Another purpose, therefore, of the sanctuary workplace is to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from using Social Security numbers to identify undocumented workers and force employers to fire them. In some cases, ICE (and its predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service) have even sent workers to federal prison, charging that providing a bad Social Security number constitutes “identify theft.”
In Local 2850’s contract language, hotels can’t terminate workers simply because Social Security questions their numbers — a protection won by San Francisco’s Local 2 several years ago. And if undocumented employees gain legal status, and a new valid number, the company must recognize their continuing seniority and job rights. Workers are even given a paid holiday on the day they’re sworn in as new citizens.
The strategy used in the Oakland resolution, and unions’ contract language, has also become the basis of a bill introduced into the California state legislature, at the initiative of the SEIU United Service Workers West — the union for janitors, security guards and airport workers. AB 450, the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, requires employers to ask for a judicial warrant before granting ICE agents access to a workplace. It prohibits employers from sharing confidential information, like Social Security numbers, without a court order. This bill also says employers must notify the state Labor Commissioner if ICE demands employee information.
United Service Workers West, like the hotel unions, also has a history of fighting workplace immigration raids and firings. In 2011 Los Angeles janitors sat down in city intersections to protest immigration-based firings by Able Building Maintenance. The union fought similar firings in Stanford University cafeterias, and among custodians in the Silicon Valley buildings of Apple and Hewlett-Packard. UNITE HERE members in San Diego mounted a hunger strike outside the Hyatt Hotel over the same issue. Over 200 Molders Union members in Berkeley at the Pacific Steel foundry fought firings for almost a year.
A number of unions are beginning to train workers to act together on the job to resist raids and firings. This spring, in a session organized by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), Filipino Advocates for Justice and several other groups, workers acted out scenarios that used job action to protect each other. ILWU members from a local recycling company, Alameda County Industries, dramatized their own strike three years ago, when they stopped work to keep the company from firing employees for not having papers. In another skit, they suggested that workers take action to demand that their boss bar ICE agents from the workplace, if they have no court order. Other unions described their experiences over the past decade in organizing workers to fight off raids and firings.
As a result of this activity, unions with a significant membership of immigrants, and a history of fighting to defend them, were very visible in May Day’s “Day Without Immigrants” marches. Many had participated in the crowds that shut down airports in January, in response to Trump’s attempted ban on migrants and travelers from Muslim countries. As workers did in 2006 — when marches protested a bill in Congress to make undocumented status a federal felony — marchers this year protested similar threats from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In a highly publicized event in April on the Arizona-Mexico border, Sessions told the press that enforcement would now prioritize identity theft, among other factors. “And it is here that criminal aliens, and the coyotes, and the document-forgers seek to overthrow our system of lawful immigration,” he announced. By employing phrases like “identity theft” and “document-forgers,” Sessions once again treats giving a bad Social Security number to an employer as a criminal offense. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that over 8 million undocumented people are in the workforce, working under bad numbers, making them potentially subject to these charges.
Anger over workplace enforcement actions has a long history in California. One of the first battles took place at the Kraco car radio factory in the early 1980s. In an action that preceded the sanctuary debate by over 30 years, workers joining the United Electrical Workers stopped the plant to force the owner to deny entry to immigration agents. Later that decade, the Molders Union Local 164 in Oakland joined the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in suing the Immigration and Naturalization Service over its practice of having agents bar the doors of factories, holding workers prisoner, and then interrogating them and detaining those without papers. The case went to the US Supreme Court, which found the practice unconstitutional.
In the Day Without Immigrants actions, unions and immigrant rights organizations sought to tap into this history, and linked the sanctuary workplace to the enforcement of labor rights in general. Sixty workers from Oakland and Emeryville hotels left their jobs and picketed the site of a proposed new hotel that has refused to guarantee workers’ freedom to organize. After tearing down a symbolic “Trump wall,” they joined the main May Day march.
In New York City, immigrant workers at one of the world’s largest suppliers of photography materials, B&H Photo Video, struck for the day, protesting a plan to relocate 330 jobs from Brooklyn, New York, to Florence Township, New Jersey. Workers have been trying to negotiate a union contract with the help of the Laundry Workers Center and the United Steel Workers, and they have accused the company of using the move to punish workers for their union support.
A thousand people marched in Yakima, in the heart of central Washington’s apple orchards. Most were farm workers who had taken off work for the day, including a large contingent from the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery who belong to the United Farm Workers. Some workers were released for the day by their employers at local packing sheds. Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League, criticized the Trump administration, calling officials like Sessions “very zealous.” Trump’s enforcement program, he said, “will economically destroy much of the agriculture industry, and I think we will also end up treating people unfairly.”
And a week after May Day, the country’s newest farm worker union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, marched 17 miles from Lynden to Bellingham in Washington. In addition to protesting Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, farm workers demanded that Washington grower Sakuma Brothers Farms sign a union contract. The union mounted a three-year boycott of Driscoll’s Berries, which markets the berries they pick for Sakuma. Combined with strikes in the fields, the boycott forced the grower to agree to a union election, won by workers last September. Their march coincided with a hunger strike by immigrants held in Tacoma, Washington’s Northwest Detention Center. Familias Unidas por la Justicia has a history of support for the center’s detainees, in part because they are forced to do all the work at the privately-run prison (except guarding themselves), at an illegal wage of $1 a day.
In the mobilizations around May Day, support grew on a national level for immigrant workers facing raids. Four unions (Communications Workers of America, Amalgamated Transit Union, National Nurses United and the United Electrical Workers) sent out a letter urging workers and labor activists to participate in the Day Without Immigrants strikes and marches.
“As leaders of the unions who supported Bernie Sanders for president, we refuse to go down that road of hatred, resentment and divisiveness,” they declared. “We will march and stand with our sister and brother immigrant workers against the terror tactics of the Trump administration.”
Over a month later, the Trump administration appears strangely reluctant to implement Sessions’ threats on a wide scale in the nation’s workplaces, but organizers are far from declaring victory. According to Agustin Ramirez, an organizer for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in California, “The threats from Trump tell us this is coming. We just don’t know when.”
In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte
Photographs and text by David Bacon
University of California Press / Colegio de la Frontera Norte
The information in President Trump's returns wouldn't be enough to quell concerns about his finances.
Should he leave the Supreme Court anytime soon, Kennedy’s successor is likely to eliminate the judicial branch as an effective check-and-balance on partisan power.
What a scary week in the Mideast. The epicenter of the world’s energy resources and the land-bridge between Asia and Africa is spinning out of control as the danger of a shooting war between the US and Russia grows daily.
A US F-18 warplane shot down a Syrian Air Force SU-22 ground attack aircraft over eastern Syria. This was a grave, reckless provocation clearly authorized by Washington. Russia, Syria’s ally, threatened to begin targeting its supposedly deadly S-300 missiles against US warplanes over Syria.
As people mobilize nationwide under the #ProtectOurCare banner in a collective bid to defeat the Republican Party's plan to strip healthcare coverage from millions in order to give the nation's wealthiest a massive tax break, Sen. Bernie Sanders was helping lead the charge over the weekend as he joined MoveOn.org and others on a rapid-response bus tour designed to galvanize opposition in key states.
Republican legislators in Kansas did the unthinkable this month: They voted to raise income taxes, ending a painful five-year experiment with an extreme anti-tax agenda introduced by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
Outrage at President Trump’s behavior and policies is already leading to speculation over whether he will manage to complete his term of office. Speculation over how he might fall is a favorite after-dinner topic. Impeachment, criminal conviction, removal by the Cabinet, resignation, secret coup by deep state intelligence officers — all figure in the guessing game. As Trump intensifies his embrace of foreign tyrants and domestic plutocrats, these guesses take on an aspect of hope. For the growing number of Americans who abhor Trump, the prospect of being rid of him is thrilling.
Five months into the Trump regime, we've reached the tipping point. It may take more than a year to play out, but the presidency of Donald Trump is coming to an end. Meantime, congressional Republicans—acknowledging the Administration is running out of runway—have decided to ram through as much toxic legislation as they can while Trump is in the White House.
I’ve been in New Orleans since May 1. I came to visit my mother, who died on May 4, five months shy of her 95th birthday and was buried on May 10. That means I’ve been here through much of this latest round of public cavil over the city’s decision to remove the four most conspicuous monuments to the Confederate insurrection, 1861-1865.
See posts below for more information.
Until that happens and the bill passes, we need to continue to make clear our demands for protection for our immigrant friends, neighbors, and family members. Our broken and severely outdated immigration system criminalizes immigrant communities that contribute greatly to the great state of California, and to our country as a whole. This harsh, punitive system allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to separate, detain, and deport hard working people—and local and state resources are devoted to helping ICE do just that.That's not who we are. We need to stop ICE and their abusive attacks on our immigrant communities and give sanctuary to the millions of immigrants who call this country home. Please call your Assemblyperson and tell them to support SB 54, the California Values Act. With enough of us working together, we can continue leading for the country and provide sanctuary in California to protect our immigrant communities.
The problems with our broken immigration system aren't going away, and they aren't going to get better unless we take collective action to fix them. We know that ICE has made us less safe, not more so. Creating terror and fear across our state is contrary to law enforcement values. We can begin to restore trust with law enforcement, but it's going to take this clear step by the Assembly to pass the California Values Act.Call your representative in the California Assembly and tell them to support SB 54, the California Values Act and protect our immigrant communities from Trump's dangerous, anti-family policies.Thank you for taking action with us today.