Shannon Gleeson. “Standing with Immigrant Workers.”

Shannon Gleeson. “Standing with Immigrant Workers.”


(soft music) (audience chattering) – Hi, everyone. Hi, everyone, we’re gonna
go ahead and get started. All right, thank you guys
all so much for being here. I’m Gretchen Purser. I’m a professor in the
Department of Sociology and also the codirector of the
Labor Studies Working Group. (audience chuckling) Anyway, I’m Gretchen Purser, professor in the Department of Sociology and the codirector of the
Labor Studies Working Group. I am super excited to
see you all here today for this talk by Shannon Gleeson. Let me just start by saying Shannon and I were graduate students
together at UC Berkeley in the Department of Sociology, so it’s really always a pleasure to have some of your former colleagues come to your new institution
and share their brilliant work with students and colleagues alike. Shannon Gleeson is an associate professor of labor relations, law, and history in the School of Industrial
and Labor Relations at Cornell University just down the road. Her research focuses on workplace rights, the experiences of immigrant workers, and the role of advocacy organizations in holding government
bureaucracies accountable. She’s the author of
Conflicting Commitments: The Politics of Enforcing
Immigrant Worker Rights in San Jose and Houston, and the author of Precarious Claims: The Promise and Failure
of Workplace Protections in the United States. I’m teaching a course right now, a seminar for graduate
students, on work and labor and Shannon Gleeson just came to my class and presented to my graduate students. We had a riveting discussion about that book, Precarious Claims. We’re really excited
to have her here today to speak about a newer
and a broader project called Standing with Immigrant Workers: Labor’s Strategies of
Resistance in the Age of Trump. I wanna do two more things. First, I wanna acknowledge with respect the Onondaga Nation, Fire
Keepers of the Haudenosaunee, the indigenous people
on whose ancestral lands Syracuse University now stands. I also wanna acknowledge
the generous funding that we received from PARCC for the Labor Studies Working Group, as well as from the work,
labor, and citizenship Tenth Decade Project
of the Maxwell School. We’re gonna actually begin perhaps in a non-traditional fashion by having community advocates come up and give a little talk,
little tiny announcement, about some of the campaigns
that they’re working on. After they’ve done so, rather than have them do that at the end, after they’ve done so, then
we’re gonna turn it over to Shannon Gleeson for her talk today. Crispin, Joel, (speaks foreign language)? Okay, okay. (Crispin and Joel
speaking foreign language) (translator speaking foreign language) (Crispin speaking foreign language) – Good afternoon, my name
is Crispin Hernandez. I’m a Workers Center organizer and we’re here to ask for your support for our driver’s license campaign. (Crispin speaking foreign language) This is a legislative campaign where we have the support of 66, (translator speaks foreign language) (Crispin speaks foreign language) 68 assembly members, 25 senators, which is really good
but we want more support because we really want this to be, allow access for driver
license for everybody. (Crispin speaking foreign language) I’ll let my (speaks foreign language) talk about how important is a
driver’s license for us. (Joel speaking foreign language) Hello, everybody, my name is Joel. I’m a Workers Center member
and I’m a farm worker. (Joel speaking foreign language) Whereas it’s really important
to have a driver’s license, especially for those
who work in agriculture, we need it to get to and from work, but we also need it to go
and do our grocery shoppings, to go to the hospital, to
take our kids to school, and even to go to church. (Joel speaking foreign language) In rural areas, we have what we call (speaks foreign language) which is people that charge people money for rides. But the truth is that they charge very large amounts of money, so having a driver’s license for us will make us more independent. (Joel speaking foreign language) The truth is that a lot
of undocumented workers, need has pushed them to get a car even without a driver’s license. They get it, they drive it, but that really causes a lot of problems. (Joel speaking foreign language) If somebody is driving and
they are stopped by the police even though, because they
committed a traffic infraction or because they don’t really understand the laws on the road, what would happen is that
a police will stop them and if they don’t have a driver’s license, the police force would call
immigration to come and get them and then that triggers this
whole deportation proceedings and people get arrested. That is how a family
separation looks here. (Joel speaking foreign language) Family separation really
affects kids a lot. I know that when I was a kid, I was really worried about
my family separating. I’m sorry, I’m paraphrasing. So, having family separation here, it really affects the kids a lot. (translator speaks foreign language) – Okay. (Joel speaking foreign language) – A lot of kids have already
their dreams and their goals but when with family separation happens, those dreams or goals are, you know, they’re no longer possible. What could end up happening
is that those kids end up making the wrong
decisions in their lives. (Joel speaking foreign language) Thank you, that’s it, that’s everything. Please support the
driver license campaign. (audience applauding) – All right, thanks, everyone. It’s a real honor to follow up individuals who are doing the work
out in the community up here in Syracuse. I thank you for giving them that space. I’m just gonna get started. To orient you a little bit about what I’m here to talk about today, I think it’s great to start off with a few labor organizers themselves talking a bit about the
work that they’re doing. But I’m gonna pivot a bit and I’m gonna talk about
the role of immigration writ large in the labor movement and talk to you about a
project that I initiated, trying to understand how the process of supporting immigrant
workers has played out in the U.S. labor movement
over the last few years under the current administration. I wanna start by laying the groundwork, and this is information that most of you are probably quite familiar with, about what immigration law looked like before the current
presidential administration. Even prior to the current president, we had a very complicated
system with long delays. It’s what many often referred to as a broken immigration system, and I say broken because I often say that it actually works
perfectly fine for certain folks who are benefiting from it. We know that we’ve had a series of failed comprehensive
immigration reform efforts, embattled short-term policies like DACA, and after that, DAPA, and an increase in deportations. These are all policy
shifts that were happening long before 2016, 2017. What has changed? I want us to set this
context before talking about the role that the
labor movement has played in resistance to these policies. It’s easy to think about
the specific policies that the current administration
has put in place, and we could go on and on
about what those look like, but just a few highlights include things like putting in place a hotline highlighting the criminal
activity of immigrants, a border build-up, which
we’ve seen on a daily basis, also, ramp-up in terms of the resources afforded to the interior
immigration enforcement, a change that we here in Upstate
New York feel very acutely. We’ve heard a lot about the travel ban targeting primarily Muslim immigrants, free-trade policies
that are being revamped with a focus on what I refer
to as an economic nationalism, and a devastating attack
on the asylum process. Other changes which you may have noticed include just a general ramp-up
in enforcement efforts, increased focus on the work site as a target of immigration enforcement, and a range of other things, which I think amounts to, really, an acceleration of the current
trends that we saw in place. So, taken together, I
think that what we see under the current administration is what we have long
understood to be a devolution of immigration control
from the federal regime to both local actors and, in some case, international and transnational actors, but really centering the
workplace and employers as a major aspect of the
immigration enforcement apparatus. I wanna take a moment and to think about where do workers fit into the federal policy regime. On the one hand, given all the policies that I just talked about, immigrants, in particular
undocumented immigrants, so though not all, even the
others with liminal status, are subject to what we refer
to as employer sanctions. They are a surveillance target. They are the main focus of agencies such as Customs and Border Protection. They are the focus of many efforts such as E-Verify, no-match
letters, et cetera, et cetera. They are what we would
essentially refer to as deportable aliens, to use the language of the U.S. Government. But on the other hand,
they are protected workers. A range of administrative agencies see undocumented workers in particular not only as a vital
part of the labor force but also a target of outreach in their efforts to
keep employers compliant to laws that affect all workers, including the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration, the Equal Opportunity Commission, and also the wage and hour provisions. So, there’s this contradictory space that undocumented workers inhabit. But what’s happened in the current regime is we’ve seen, as I’ve mentioned, a shift to the work site
as what it’s long been, but even more so now, a
primary target of enforcement. And so, just to kind of remind you of where we’ve been the
last couple of years, the last ICE director did a ramp-up in terms of the personnel
and the resources targeting work site enforcement. We saw the resurgence of
what we used to refer to as these large-scale spectacles of raids which used to be popularized
under the Bush Administration and have since went down
under the Obama Administration but have been resurrected as a primary enforcement apparatus. So, about a quadrupling of
more workplace crackdowns. We also see that workers themselves are feeling the chilling effect of this changing immigration policy. More workers are saying that their bosses are threatening to have them deported. We see that talking to
low-wage worker advocates like lawyers who talk about the role that immigration-related
retaliation is playing in their ability to do worker advocacy. Places that we previously
designated as safe spaces including places like courthouses and labor commissioner offices
are no longer off limits. We have seen attempts by
the Federal Government to move into these spaces
without even notifying the existing state or local
administrators of their presence to try to apprehend unknowing subjects. I think that we see an effort on the part of the national DOL to continue to hold accountable the, in some proforma way, the employers that their mission tells them that they should be making
sure are in compliance, and so, Alex Acosta, as I
mentioned in our seminar earlier, who’s the current secretary of labor, has kept in place a
memorandum of understanding that supposedly keep a firewall between the workplace
enforcement efforts of the DOL and the workplace
enforcement efforts of ICE. But many of us, I think,
agree that those MOUs are, for the large part, ineffective. Lastly, as any labor organizer knows, ICE has long used what we
refer to as ruse operations, going under the cover of
being a worker advocate to entrap workers on site. We’ve seen this going all the way back to Michael Chertoff in the wake of 9/11, but using, for example,
OSHA training operations as a way to round up
workers for deportation. All of these are characteristics of the current immigration
enforcement regime. We also know that immigration activists are increasingly a target of this deportation machine. In Vermont, we heard
over the last few years, of targeting of some of the leaders there who were focused on
rallying for the rights of the dairy workers in Vermont. We also know that many of the young people organizing on campuses such as yours have also been targeted. This is the context in which we are in, a continuation of many of the policies that have been long in place and an intensification of the
resources that carry them out. I go through that
because I want us to know what is the context into
which the labor movement, and specifically traditional labor unions, are stepping as they respond
to this policy environment. Let’s take a moment to orient ourselves to these organizations. You guys are all a labor crowd so I don’t need to give you the rundown of what a traditional labor union are, but we know that the labor movement has had a long history of somewhat contradictory relationships to their foreign-born workers, what we might refer to as a long history of institutionalized xenophobia. This was reversed actually
only fairly recently in 2001 with the national declaration of inclusion at one of the national convenings. This is happening alongside the reality that one in five foreign-born
workers are foreign-born and an estimated 5% of
the undocumented work, of the civilian workforce
are undocumented. Unions in this demographic reality play a key role in the
immigrant rights movement, but what I wanna talk about today is what are the various
strategies and goals that they’ve been adopting. Also, amidst those vocal responses, what are some of the strategic silences that we also see in response
to Trump-era policies? Just to summarize where I’m headed, what I’m interested in
doing in this project is to look inward at
the U.S. labor movement. I say inward because I’ve
come out of a labor school that’s kinda taken as a given, the role of a traditional labor movement, and to ask how have
U.S. labor unions varied in their approach to championing or limiting immigrant rights. We often think of the labor
movement as a monolith and so, what I wanna
talk about today a bit is how they have varied both
in terms of across the trades but also in terms of across
their various strategies. I wanna focus a bit on
the narrative frames that each of these labor
constituencies have used to advance and justify their
inclusion of immigrants. What I’m gonna argue is
that many of those frames end up being, in some
ways, counterproductive to the broader goals of the
immigrant rights movement, and to ask a series of critical questions about the role of the labor
movement’s immigration platform in engaging an explicitly
intersectional lens that the immigrant rights
movement has increasingly demanded and which declare solidarity
with black, Muslim, and LGBT workers. I’m headed in that direction. I wanna start by first talking
about what the labor movement has meant for the vanguard
of immigrant rights policies in the United States. Before actually doing that,
let me tell you a little bit about how I gathered my data. I’m happy to talk about this more later. This is really a content
analysis of the public documents generated by the labor movement. We rely largely on a social media recap and looking at the websites
of traditional labor unions, and I’ll talk about
which ones in a second, press releases, news coverage, looking in the top 10 states
by foreign-born population and the top three metros within that, and also a series of interviews with a range of labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO
and the Building Trades, as well as a series of
what we might refer to as immigrant unions, as well as the AFT, the teachers who have played a
big role in student advocacy. Where have unions been
traditionally over the last decade at the vanguard of immigrant rights? I wanna be very clear
that unions have played an important role not only
in terms of lip service but also in terms of actually generating some of the policies
that have been adopted in pro-worker, pro-immigrant context. David Bacon, a photojournalist,
as many of you may know, wrote about this last year, thinking about the new legislation that California has been putting in place to protect undocumented workers
from employer retaliation, limiting the amount of cooperation that employers can have
with ICE on their property, and thinking through the role
that the state needs to play in protecting their
undocumented workforce. All of those initiatives, we can thanks the labor movement for. Many of those began initially as initiatives within labor unions, like the UFCW, FCIU. Here, we have an example of a rally of San Francisco janitors
and other workers in support of AB 450, which
was a bill to protect workers during immigration raids
and enforcement actions, and one which the Federal Government is currently litigating. The labor movement has
also played a key role in terms of generating
right-to-work resources and trying to initiate
institutional culture change among the rank and file, to talk about the role
that not only xenophobia but also racism, sexism,
and a range of other things play in dividing the house of labor. Know Your Rights workshops
have been generated amongst local affiliates
and adopted by the AFL-CIO. We’ve seen we can have
a bigger conversation about what the leadership of
the AFL-CIO has looked like, but suffice it to say that
the top brass of the AFL-CIO has, at least on the face
of it, shifted and pivoted towards a more inclusive
approach to immigrant workers. We also know that local
central labor councils are playing an important role in educating employers themselves about what their rights are if ICE ends up on their property and also educating
workers about their rights beyond the workplace, if they
are stopped by the police, and many of the scenarios
that we just heard about from our (speaks foreign language), and also what if ICE
shows up at your door. We see the shift from
unions not only thinking about the needs of immigrant
and undocumented workers but also what does an immigrant-friendly and an immigrant-inclusive union look like beyond simply focusing on the
nine-to-five of the work site. Collective bargaining agreements have also been a critical
model for inclusive language. Many of the collective
bargaining agreements adopted by unions such as UNITE HERE have included specific provisions
preventing reverification on the part of management under
programs such as E-Verify, and so, much of the pushback that we see has really come out of the
rank and file in these unions. Suffice it to say, unions have played an incredibly important role in generating many of these policies that we then see adopted by
more progressive governments. What I wanna do now is
think about the whys. Why do we see this pivot towards an inclusive
approach to immigrants? In some ways, sitting right
now where we are in 2019, that might seem like a
silly question to ask. We’ve come to equate the
immigrant rights movement with the labor movement, but in fact, if you are a labor historian, you know that that was
not always the case. I wanna talk a bit about what
are the rationales that we see for inclusion within the labor movement, and what are the narratives that the labor organizations
that I looked at use to advance their pro-immigrant agenda. I wanna take a moment
here and say a little bit about why we might care
about the narratives that organizations and institutions use. We know a lot from the
social movement literature that frames are an important
tool in determining the state of play of many of the debates, but they’re also in
response to competition not only between social movements but also countermovements. So, the context that I
just laid out for you illustrates that, in many ways, the union in the labor movement but also immigrant rights
movement more generally, are on the defensive
and are adopting frames directly in response to
xenophobic and racist narratives being generated both within
and without the labor movement. These frames are an important
reflection of those contests between social movements
and countermovements. I also think that institutions become an important part of this process. To be sure, the labor movement is one of the key social movements that we would focus on to understand this, but unions themselves
and the bureaucracies that they’re attached
to also become important for the ways in which they either adopt and/or reify these
frames in everyday life. Even though sociologists
have done a lot of work thinking about what we refer to as the immigrant threat narrative, what are the narratives being generated in opposition to immigrants, we haven’t really paid as much attention to what are the narratives
of rights and inclusion and how those rights narratives become salient and institutionalized. Some of the existing work
out of political science and political sociology has pointed to a particular
set of narratives that become salient for the general public for being able to stomach
the new demographic changes that they’re seeing, and this idea of American values as being a salient frame
for immigrant rights we know is important. What I’m gonna show is actually reflective in many of the ways in
which unions are talking about workers, immigrant workers, as a important part of their constituency, but one which plays a very particular role in advancing their own pro-worker aims. I’m gonna talk about four specific frames for immigrant rights that emerged in the data that we reviewed. I’m gonna not talk about these necessarily as exclusive, mutually exclusive, in fact, you’re gonna
see a lot of overlap, but think of them as entry points into framing the rights of immigrants. Then I’m gonna pivot
afterwards to consider what some of the limitations
of these narratives might be. Think of them as actual
calculated responses with clear costs and
benefits attached to them. I wanna start by thinking
about the argument and the debate ongoing about immigrants as threat versus fellow Americans. One of the things that
we did is look at op-eds and different public statements that labor leaders generated. This is a quote from one of the
leaders out of Orange County who talked about America’s
Latino immigrant community as helping to revitalize the nation’s shrinking middle-class. El Super, this is one
of the ethnic markets that was under an organizing
drive in Southern California, is aggressively attempting
to lower the bar. Southern California’s
standards of pay and benefits for the retail grocery workers has, for many years, set
the standard for workers in urban centers across the country. El Super, however, has
clearly told its employees to town down their American Dreams. Equating immigrant workers
with, just like you and I, individuals pursuing the American Dream, I think, is a strong part
of one of the rationales. Thinking about the hopes and aspirations that immigrants have
as looking very similar to yours and mine, I think,
is an important shift. Aside from rejecting this othering of the hopes and
aspirations of immigrants, we also see a real focus,
perhaps not surprisingly, on immigrant workers
as economic producers. The argument that immigrants
are conducting the work that Americans won’t do, that they’re essential to economic growth. For example, here’s a series of samplings from various central labor councils. L.A. County, talking about how immigrants keep our nation afloat. The Virginia State fed also
referring to immigrants in the sense that there’s
just no compelling proof that immigration, quote,
squeezes out native-born workers in any systemic way. Also, thinking about the
systemic cost of deportation out of Florida, DACA
deportations would cost billions for states like California,
Texas, and Illinois, and ultimately put 700,000 jobs at risk. Finally, from the vice
president of the AFL-CIO itself, thinking about immigrant
workers, an economic force that bring the power of
their labor to this country. So, thinking about immigrant
workers as economic producers and the reductionist ways
in that, in some ways, you might wanna think about leaves out other immigrants themselves. Lastly, as we heard actually
previous to me starting, thinking about immigrants as
family and upstanding citizens, individuals that we would
want in our community. In Central Valley, the United Farm Workers talking about immigrants as
feeding not just this district but the entire country, every
day, including Donald Trump. And Donald Trump has been saying that we’re murderers and we’re rapists. Again, this kind of pushing
back in a defensive way to the characterizations of immigrants. In Texas even, SB4, which
some of you might remember was state legislation that
not only at the same time was creating a show-me-your-papers, state-level policy that permitted police to ask for individual’s paperwork in a racial profiling context, referred to by the Texas AFL-CIO as a direct attack on Texan values and hardworking Texas families. And finally, SEIU 32BJ
out of New York City also thinking about the
shift towards the dismantling of the Temporary Protected Status program as something that would impact
not only immigrant workers but also the families that they have here and the homes that they also own. So, immigrant workers
as upstanding citizens, immigrant workers as
economic producers, economic, and immigrant workers as family members. We see this played out also
in terms of the iconography in many of the social media posts, thinking about immigrant
workers as being central and vital to the very
fabric of our nation. This is a rally out of L.A. on May Day back in 2016. That’s Rusty Hicks, the county CLC leader. Lastly, I just wanna touch on
the idea of immigrant workers as being central to advancing an agenda of diversity and racial justice. In other words,
immigration-driven diversity as being beneficial to the United States. We often hear about
immigrants as being central to our country’s nation-building
narrative, right? Connecting immigrant
rights with racial justice. In other words, as one
labor leader put it: Race and immigration status
have been historically been used to divide the working class and weaken our power to
protect the rights and freedoms that level the playing
field for working families. Out of Boston, we see similar narratives in response to the Save TPS campaign. The Boston Labor Council condemning the racist and ignorant remarks about Haitians, African
Americans, and Latin Americans, as you may remember, the shithole comment, and thinking about the importance of standing with immigrant union members and specifically their families out of a perspective of racial justice. Similarly, when we saw the
first Muslim ban put in place, we see individuals who
flocked to airports. This is the Dallas AFL-CIO who brought a contingent of people to think about the importance of equating the immigrant
rights fight for racial justice with also previous attempts
to stave off anti-Semitic, if you can’t read this, Jews against history repeating itself. No more. So, linking the Islamophobic attacks to the racial justice
efforts locally as well. But amidst all of these wranglings, we also see that labor
is not a uniform entity. Early on in the Trump presidency, we had a series of
uncomfortable relationships brewing between top-brass labor leadership and the president. Just to remind you of the early days of after the inauguration,
early in January 7, 2017, Rich Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, met with Trump at Trump Tower. Later that month, he also went on to meet with other labor leaders
in the Oval Office, talking about a pull-out of the TPP, discussing the importance
of promoting a pipeline. Later, in April, we also
see Trump showing up at one of the Building
Trades national conferences. Even there, though, while
you do see some pushback from local rank and file, from, for example, the IBEW, #RESIST, you saw an overall kind of rejection of internal criticism
from the rank and file towards the president. I think labor has also had to contend with the uncomfortable relationship with many of its own affiliates
that have a direct hand in the immigration enforcement apparatus. We’ve seen a call for the AFL-CIO to expel the Border Patrol Union after they endorsed the
Donald Trump presidency, and even a kind of push towards thinking about the labor movement’s relationship with its police unions,
which have, for a long time, protected the officers
involved in police brutality and those involved in this
direct pipeline to deportation which we heard about at the outset. So, although we see a
uniform push from the top in favor of immigrant rights, we also see several instances where the labor movement
has had to ask itself what role it’s playing in advancing the immigration enforcement apparatus. When I talked to labor leaders
about this contradiction, they made it clear that
getting the national leadership and even the state and
local leadership on board is a different matter
than actually creating institutional change
amongst the rank and file. He talked to me, for example,
this is the Massachusetts, the North Short Central Labor Council, talked about what it was
like convincing their workers that immigrants from Latino backgrounds were their brothers and
sisters in the house of labor, versus, for example, the Muslim ban. He said: The Muslim ban
is a little bit different. I’ve seen an uptick in outreach to mosques but a core part of the more
conservative part of our members is this link to terrorism. It’s always a little
difficult sometimes to explore what motivates the more
extreme, right-wing folks. Is it white supremacy? Is it misogyny? Is it fear of terrorists? Loss of privilege? Who knows? Is it economic insecurity, which is definitely an
element of it, or what? But clearly, a part of
this kind of nonsense. He went on to talk about
how he had been a key part of the statewide and also
national push of his union to be more inclusive even
around issues of Islamophobia, but that there is a clear distinction between the work he was
doing looking upwards and then the rank-and-file,
institutional culture change that was gonna take more effort. I wanna point us to the words
of Chaumtoli Huq who’s a, oh, sorry, who’s really pointed to the challenges of this call to rally the working class to resist Trump’s registry,
in this case, of Muslims. She talks about the role
that the election played with working class rights. She said: The election, where
many working class whites, some of them unionized, opted to vote according to
narrow economic interests rather than for the safety and security of working communities, revealed that unions need to engage in a political education
around these issues such as structural racism,
Islamophobia, and xenophobia. The election revealed the repeated failure to have the discussion on these issues communities of color have been urging, and this is why we now
face a Trump presidency. In order for us to move forward, we need to explore ways to
provide support and protection for working class community of color, engage unions in these discussions, and shift our organizing strategy to employ an intersectional
analysis that snaps to focus the place of South
Asian and Muslim workers as a part of the labor community. That refocusing is one
of the sticking points that emerged in many of the interviews, in particular, that I conducted. I think this became really apparent when I talked to one
leader in Washington State, who talked about needing to align the work around immigrant rights with some of the racial justice
movement they were doing. She recounted a pivot
that her organization had to do in this regard. She said: Well, we had
supported Black Lives Matter and gone to rallies, things like that, and then the initiative. UFCW 21 worked with us
to do this initiative. She’s talking about one in
support of racial justice. So, we reached out to the
leaders in the black community and I guess just to be
honest, they kind of said, okay, we recognize that you wanna help, but how about taking a look first at what’s happening in labor? You might wanna help yourselves first. Which was very true. I said, yeah, that’s true. It’s just arrogant of us to think that we’re gonna rush in and help when we’ve got our own practices that are perpetuating racism and we need to look at
that and address it. She went on to talk about
how this was very much tied to their approach to
immigrant rights as well. She also discussed that
one of the ironic twists under the current administration is that in the upsurge of
anti-immigrant policies, she has also seen, I
mean, as she recounted, that all these things which
require us to be more nimble because you don’t know where
the next attack is coming from or from where it’s going to be directly. And also, she argued, more militant. So, on the one hand, you
see a lot of shifting in terms of the ways in which immigrants are talking about immigrants, but she also talked about a clearly a need to be more militant in addressing this. In other words, what are the
risks that unions themselves are willing to undertake in addition to the very important work that they’re doing at the policy level in terms of Know Your Rights
training and the rest. In fact, she argued that it was the Trump
Administration’s more punitive shift that, in some ways, had
sparked what she would argue might be a more productive
shift long-term. I wanna end by thinking
about what a potential, more radical flank might look like, both within the labor movement but also in solidarity
with worker advocacy groups and immigrant advocacy groups with whom they are building coalitions. I wanna start by identifying where we see moments of that already occurring amongst rank and file and in local leadership where we wouldn’t necessarily
assume it’s present. Three instances, one of which I’ve already mentioned already, but at the National
Building Trades conference in April of 2017, where
Trump came to talk, you saw this organized response
on the part of IBEW workers from the Imperial Valley,
Riverside, in Southern California, who launched this #RESIST campaign and were soon thereafter
escorted out of the conference, but that has kind of persisted and IBEW has become an important voice within the Building Trades. And the Building Trades as a whole are what one of their leaders, on condition of anonymity,
explained to me, would be at best a neutral
force in the immigration debate, but one which more
likely would run counter to the rights of immigrants. So, you do see distinctions
within the trades in opposition to the pro-wall, pro-border-patrol union narratives that we get as a whole. Another example is in the wake of some of the violent
attacks on immigrants, you might remember in
Portland, for example, there was an attack on two young women, one of whom who presented as a Muslim, and we had two bystanders,
Good Samaritans, who were killed, it was actually the local labor union, with the pressure of local activists, who issued a statement in solidarity with what they called
out, you can’t read there, the brutal white supremacist assault that occurred on public transit. So, taking a more proactive
and a vocal stance towards racial justice and connecting that directly
with immigrant rights. We also see that this
is tied, in some ways, to the changing face of
immigrant leadership. In Minneapolis, the first
female leader of the CLC there, Chelsie Gabiou, made an explicit effort on the first days of her administration to root her presidency of head of that local labor council as one that would
advance immigrant workers and pointing specifically to
the large Somali population in that CLC. She also got quite a
bit of pushback on that. But I think beyond these
statements of solidarity and statements of proactive calling-out of xenophobia and white supremacy,
you also see a pushback, perhaps not within the labor movements, but certainly from immigrant
rights members outside of it, of pushing back against the narratives of immigrants as solely
economic producers. You might have remembered
the Hamilton meme that came out after as
thinking about immigrants as getting the job done and reifying immigrants as this face of good, capitalist, productive labor. You have groups like the DreamersAdrift, which some of you may or may not know. They’re a artistic group who have really pushed back
even against this narrative that DREAMers have to be this
all-inclusive, perfect face of immigrant rights movements. So, thinking about immigrants as being more than their economic function and actually thinking
about their full humanity. I think that this is a shift that we see coming from outside the immigrant rights, outside the labor movement, but also more likely at the fringes of the undocumented
student movement as well. Another shift I think you see happening in the immigrant rights movement
which the labor movement has only really tangentially embraced is centering trans women of color. At the center of the
immigrant rights movement, Jennicet Gutierrez has played
an important role of this, especially looking at the role
of trans women in particular coming up from Central America who are in direct line of detention and deportation at the border and who are in literal
fear of their lives. We have the example of Roxana Hernandez who died in detention from
HIV-related complications and was not granted the
healthcare that she needed. So, centering this as an
issue of immigrant rights and centering the face
of trans women of color is something that some of
the local organizations within the labor movement have been proactive about
embracing in large urban centers in part through the
Pride at Work initiative, but really not in any
meaningful way to date. We’ve also seen within the
immigrant rights movement an emerging radical flank around what does it
mean to have sanctuary. Sanctuary being a set of policies that I think are often focused at the municipal and county level but also a push from
thinking about sanctuary as not only one that ties
the rights of immigrants to live in their local communities without the explicit cooperation
of local law enforcement but also what does it
mean to have sanctuary from not only deportation and deportation but also displacement and police violence. So, thinking about these
broader conceptions of what sanctuary means. Also, borrowing from tactics
not only of social movements but also the labor movement, what does it mean to apply a strike ethos to an immigrant rights movement? We’ve seen solidarities emerge between the prison labor movement and the detainees who
have been on hunger strike at places like Adelanto on the border, and thinking about
solidarity with prisoners and also how to do that without reifying certain
boundaries of criminality, how to talk about immigrants
as being unjustly incarcerated without arguing that other communities are the true face of criminality. Lastly, I think we see examples of this here in your community as well, but also the creation of
community resistance zones, the role of rapid-response networks, and efforts to mobilize
not only immigrants but also their allies, some of which include the labor movement, to be on site when immigration
enforcement actions occur. We see, this is actually an
example out of Philadelphia which just had one of the
more active resistance zones, but we also see examples of
that here in Upstate New York. Finally, I think that
part of the conversation around what the immigrant
rights movement will look like and the role that the
labor movement will play has to do with what is
it that we’re asking for. Right now, I think a lot of
these questions are emerging from the congressional
debates that are happening and the arguments that the
president is putting forth about what he’s gonna need in
exchange for the border wall, and a very small contingent of the immigrant rights community being very clear that it’s
all of us or none of us. This is, I think, part
of the policy debate that the labor movement
has had a harder time with, the policies that the labor movement has been particularly enamored with include things like the
guest worker policies for some aspects of the labor movement, more carved-out temporary
status provisions that might provide provisions
for people to be here without deportation for a number of years, or even a parsed-out solution for a subset of immigrants who may be parents of citizen children. We see examples from the student movement. This is an example you might remember from Nancy Pelosi’s
announcement of her willingness to negotiate with Donald Trump over DACA, and many of the students pushing back on the compromise that
she and Chuck Schumer were willing to engage in in exchange for staving
off the border wall. The labor movement has had to
take these issues seriously because they’ve developed
a very close relationship with many of the national
student organizations like United We Dream, and the question becomes:
What is the compromise that they’re willing to endorse in exchange for a set of policies that makes sense for their members? I think also there is a pushback on thinking about whose
lives we argue matter. Thinking about who is the face
of the undocumented movement. Again, tying the
undocumented student movement also to ones connected to racial justice and thinking about immigrant
students, immigrant youth, immigrant leaders as being
ones willing to take risks in the face of a bigger policy debate. One of the UndocuMedia posts talked about: It is this generation of movement
leaders who, in many ways, face a bleaker future
with bigger obstacles who are radically redefining
immigrant resistance in the age of Trump. In desperate times, an embattled
immigrant rights movement can draw much hope and courage from the lucidity of their vision, the depth of their convictions, and their uncompromising
resolve for all 11 million. Also, thinking about the
UndocuBlack experience as having a particular
set of intersectionalities that need to be centered,
not just pandered to as well. To end here, ’cause I
think I’m right up on time, I wanted to talk about where
I’m headed with this research. Some of the work I’ve been doing in conjunction with a
colleague, Sofya Aptekar, has also been kind of tying
what are some of the narratives of immigrant inclusion
in the union movement to what we see amongst immigrant veterans and in the military. We see some striking points of overlap in terms of how both institutions, both the unions and the labor
movement and the military, use immigrants as a way to advance particular mission-readiness goals. Thinking about the role of
diversity, economic production, and also their relationship to the broader national leadership. I’ve also been working with
a team of undergraduates to think through the differences
within the labor movement, even within what we might
refer to as immigrant unions and the role that they have, the strategy that they
have adopted differently, especially in different
regions of the country, around certain policy issues
that may, for example, be more salient for Haitians
in Boston or in Florida, versus some of the guest worker policies that have been bandied about that affect the largely
farm worker communities in Central California. I’m particularly interested
in continuing to parse out what does the face of the
labor movement look like when you drill down deep
into the specific affiliates and the communities that they represent and also having an ongoing conversation about what the labor
movement’s role will be moving forward an immigrant rights agenda, and what are the points
of friction that remain as they continue to try
to coalesce a compromise not only with the national leadership but also with many of the allies in the broader immigrant rights community, which unions themselves also rely on in a very transactional way
for their own campaigns. I really look forward to your comments. This is, as I may have
mentioned, a work in progress and I look forward to any
thoughts that you might have about how to move this forward. Thank you. (audience applauding) – All right, we’re gonna
open it up to questions. – [Woman] You want to use the mic? – Oh.
– (chuckles) Sorry. – This is a local story,
in a sense, on unions. I was a janitor under a contract but not a union contract at
Le Moyne maybe five years ago and a union came in and
I got a union contract which bumped us into health benefits and a little bit of pay,
not a small amount of pay, $1.50 an hour more, I think. What did happen was that to
pay for the health benefits, they cut the staff from 39 to 25 (laughs) to stay in the budget. And then in forming the contract, they never formed a workers’ council to work on the contract
or accept the contract, which is kind of not anathema but certainly not too cute to live through in that your voices aren’t
being directly heard even by the union
representatives on campus. Where am I going with this? I felt that the union people
here, and it was SEIU, didn’t spend enough time on campus to understand really the
whole context of the site. Partly, that was because they only had, by my calculation, about $12,000 a year that was coming out of union dues with such a small membership. So, there was problems
with the union being, you might say, Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. Although they did orchestrate a benefit, they cut 14 jobs. I mean, they cut a third of
the workforce, essentially, at the same time. So, they kind of played, played a destabilizing game, in some ways. – Yeah, yeah. I’m sorry to hear that. I will play off of one
thing that you mentioned which is who has a voice
in union leadership. I think that’s been another, to bring it back to some of the things that I was talking about, a key thing that I have found is that some of the lip
service, to be crude, that we see being generated has to be backed up by
institutional change not only in terms of policies but also who is the face
of the union themselves. And so, incorporating
the changing demography of the rank and file in
the actual leadership has been a very contentious
process for many locals, even in those where the vast
majority of the rank and file are increasingly foreign-born. So, I think the question is, when you see these decisions emerge around what they’re going to endorse or what are the strategies
they’re gonna adopt, who’s at the table making those decisions? That’s a great point. Yeah. – [Woman] I’m coming. Sorry. – [Audience Member] Thank you for coming and for a great talk. I think, you know, you point out the fact that this is really
challenging for the unions, given their membership, their tradition. I just wondered what are the voting
patterns of union members and how are those voting patterns playing into the complexity of taking stance on immigrant workers if you have members who are
worried about their jobs and, to some degree,
have drunk the Kool-Aid that immigrants are bad for workers? – That’s a good question. I’m not a political scientist so I don’t have these numbers at hand, but I will say that in, I think, the two things
that I recall looking at is one that the partisan affiliation of the labor movement as a whole we all know to be primarily
allied with the Democratic Party but what that means on the
ground, even at the state level, differs quite a bit. So, even in the state of New York, the interests of unions can’t proceed on a strictly partisan
basis down in Albany. We know that there are many
alliances that have to be struck also with the GOP membership there. I think it differs state by state in terms of who are the partisan
deals that are being made and who are the politicians, but also it differs between,
as I mentioned before, the leadership and the rank and file. We just got a bit of an insight into that with the representative from
the North Shore Council. I think, to be specific about the, the composition of some of
the affiliates, in some cases, you’re dealing with a largely
non-citizen population that doesn’t vote. And so, ultimately, unions, in some ways, when we think back to what were their incentives to incorporate immigrants to begin with, it’s in some ways a challenging prospect. Rebecca Hamlin talks about this somewhat in some of the work that she did. Unions are inherently a
political organization. They are, and this has been a the heart of a lot of the conversations around what the role of a union should be, but they play a good deal of their work, spend a good deal of their
time on organizing for policy, certain policy proposals and the rest, and they rely on not
only the rank and file to help sustain those
political activities monetarily but also through their voting patterns. And so, what do you do when a
good part of that membership, especially in certain affiliates like the low-skilled
aspects of the trades, like the laborers or the
carpenters, are non-citizen? What does that mean, both in terms of internal union democracy, in terms of who gets elected, but also in terms of the
strategies that they adopt? One that focuses on policy-making may seem more salient for a
citizen population versus not. That said, I think that many
unions have been very proactive even given their large non-citizen base, and you see the creation
of affiliate groups like Mi Familia Vota, which is
a get-out-the-vote apparatus that SEIU has developed, and many of the boots on
the ground are immigrant and, in many cases, non-citizen workers. So, as political scientists
have kind of thought about what does immigrant
political participation look like, they’ve had to move away from voting as the only indicator of that, but also not assume that immigrants aren’t very much involved in some of that. Specific to their stance
on immigrant workers, I haven’t looked as much at
the GSS polling data on this, but I just came back
from another conference that talked about, there’s a poll of Latinos
out of California, and one of the interesting findings that Matt Barreto and
colleagues at UCLA found is that some of the messaging
coming out of the White House focusing on Mexicans as rapists, Mexicans as murderers, Mexicans as XYZ is actually having a panethnic
impact on Latinos as a whole and that the coded language
really is Latinos are Hispanics. And so, even though the
language that’s being used is targeted to a particular country, it’s the entire Latino population, including those who are
citizens, like Puerto Ricans, who are taking that as a direct affront. And so, we might think about that, although we don’t wanna do it
through rose-colored glasses, as an opportunity for solidarity. – Hi, I really enjoyed your talk. I was wondering if you
could talk a little bit about what you mentioned at the end, the kind of spatial and regional
variation that you’ve seen in terms of the way that unions are approaching inclusive organizing. I know you already mentioned
that that overlaps a lot with the trades or with the
industry side of things as well. – Sure. Yeah, I think that the spatial
and regional variation is, at least of three ways of looking at it. Just to reiterate,
certainly, you have places that are heavily dominated
by the service industry like in New York City which
has a Hotel Trades Council which has been very proactive, and so, you have the apparatus in place to focus on what are
the immigration policies that are impacting, in that
case, the hotel industry. In some places where you
have large hotel chains who are being impacted
by immigration policies like E-Verify and the rest, you see a concerted effort on
the part of immigrant unions to not only lobby for policies
that would help their members but also create and
invest hard-cash resources in things that unions
haven’t typically done, like legal assistance or putting into collected
bargaining contracts language around giving people time in the event of an audit
to fix their paperwork. There, I think, in immigrant-dense places and where you have the institutions like the Hotels Trade Councils and powerful unions like 32BJ, you see efforts to become
more of a service organization for the immigrants. In other places, I think it also depends on the composition of the immigrants. New York City’s a very diverse place and so I didn’t focus on that as much but we see that in
places like the Midwest, where you have large refugee populations, particularly on issues
around this Islamophobia, you have seen just a different kind of cut of what is important to the
immigrant community there. Certainly, you see this even in Buffalo where the composition of
the immigrant community is really more around
the refugee population. In fact, it was kind of striking to me when I first moved here
’cause our colleagues there were very quick to distinguish
immigrants from refugees. But there, a lot of it has to
do with refugee resettlement and thinking about how the
attack on refugee resettlement has impacted some of
the economic investment initiatives coming out of Albany that have impacted not
only the refugee community but also the efforts to
do economic revitalization writ large. Lastly, I would say
leadership really matters. Leadership, but also the civic ecology in which unions are located. So, if you look at a
place like New York City or if you look at a
place like San Francisco, the idea that unions have to
demand a seat at the table is a battle that’s already been fought. They have a seat at the table. It’s a question of who
else are they gonna let sit at the table with them. Versus in places like Houston where I’ve also done some work, the civic context is not as dense, it’s much more anti-worker
and anti-immigrant, and those non-labor organizations with whom unions are partnering become kind of a vital
link to political power. And so, where unions don’t
have a seat at the table, you see a different set of compromises and what I refer to as more
strategic allegiances emerging. In San Francisco, you can say, I’m not gonna deal with
the Restaurant Association, they’re the devil, (chuckling)
I’m not gonna work with you, because you have the
political power to do that and you have a board of supervisors with whom you’ve built political capital. But in other places,
you have to work with, in some cases, the chambers of commerce, or in this case, there are
certain trade associations. And so, the compromises
that emerge from there are sometimes (chuckling) messier and ones that don’t necessarily advance what we would think at the
national level as an immigrant, a uniformly immigrant-friendly
set of policies but which require a different
set of power brokers to help move things forward. I don’t know if that answers
some of your questions. – [Gretchen] Other questions. – [Dark-Haired Man] Thanks. Okay. How exceptional is this family rhetoric? Is it something that’s been around in the U.S. labor
movement for a long time? Is it something that’s unique to immigrant rights/labor movements? Is it successful? – Yeah, that’s a good question. I’m not a labor historian so I can’t say. I could attempt but I’m sure there’s a labor historian in
the room who will correct me. To reframe your question,
I think I would say, how exceptional is the family
rhetoric to the labor movement and does it also come out, in some ways, of the immigrant rights movement? I think it’s a question,
empirical question, of whether or not the immigrant right, the labor movement is parroting the narratives it sees from
the immigrant rights movement or is it generating its own
set of narrative strategies? I think that there has
been actually a lot written on kind of centering
families as a mechanism of thinking about why
immigrant rights matter. We heard some of this earlier. The systematic problem
with the family rhetoric, at least in the immigration context, is that because of the way the immigration policies are situated, the family rhetoric tends
to reify a certain version of heteronormative family. The faces of who families,
aspects of family matter, the very literal faces of those who have been included in
sanctuary efforts and the rest, tend to be part and parcel of this exceptional immigrant narrative. But I do think that it is a
shift on the part of unions to think about the importance of policies that impact the families
of members themselves. So, if you take things like DACA, DACA was in some ways a
non-starter for immigrants, for unions themselves. I mean, unions aren’t, for the most part, their members are not, for the most part, individuals who are gonna benefit from some of these
youth-oriented programs. Despite their best efforts, that’s not where the union
rank and file is situated. But the move towards thinking
about immigration policies that were not necessarily central to some of the job creation policies that have often been the focus of some of the policy advocacy and one that thought about
immigrant family members as also being a direct obligation on the part of the unions to help, so the creation of funds
to help individuals who are going through the DACA process, the very concrete alliances that were created between
United We Dream and the AFL-CIO happened through thinking
about union members as being situated in
mixed-status families. I think that is unique but I don’t think that it’s
necessarily a big step away from how the immigrant rights movement has been framing the issue. But if there’s labor historians
here who can key us in into how we think about the
workers embedded in families, that would be helpful as well. That’s a great point, thank you. – Hi, thank you for your talk. I’m curious. My initial reaction to
seeing your approach, or part of your methodological approach of interviewing labor leaders was, I don’t really care so
much about labor leaders. My initial reaction was just like, that seems like more of a top-down model, like more of an advocacy model. Nothing against being more inclusive but isn’t the real power in organizing the rank and file and if unions are being more
inclusive to these workers, A, is it just self-interested, recognizing that, doing the math and
recognizing the membership? To get numbers, they
need to be more inclusive ’cause the workforce is changing. And then, um… Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry. I guess that’s. – Yeah, no, I think you–
– I had one more point. But yeah, just like, – Yeah, you could–
– labor movement is in decline anyway, so
don’t we need a different, shouldn’t this be part of a set of bigger, more structural changes of increasing democracy
among these workers? Which, obviously hard
to do, but. (chuckles) – Yeah, yeah, I don’t disagree
with anything you said but I do think that maybe it’s helpful to just reiterate what the
research question itself was how is the leadership framing this, partly because they’re
the ones who have access to the halls of power
around these policies. That was explicitly my question but you pose an excellent point, which is to say the perspectives
of the labor leaders are necessarily probably going to differ from the rank and file both in positive and negative ways. If what I’m arguing is there has to be deeper institutional change,
should that start at the top or does that have to come from the bottom? I think it’s an important corrective to, some of the stuff that I just presented is also to say that some
of the shifts that we see, as I presented, within the California unions, for example, if you look at California in the ’90s, California was Arizona, right? And so, some of those changes were not because some benevolent
labor leader came along. It was because rank and file immigrant, largely women of color, people
like Katie Quan and others, kinda worked their way through the ranks to demand these changes at the top. So, I think that it’s
an empirical quandary of if you’re interested
in the formal approach of any institution, who do
you talk to to get that, but what are you missing in
the process of doing that? I think that’s a really good point, yeah. – [Gretchen] We have
time for just one or two other brief questions. Shannon, I actually have a question. I’m just gonna take the floor.
– Yes, ma’am. – My question is, yeah, the labor movement
is on the decline. I guess I’m interested
in just hearing you talk about your vision of the
future of the labor movement. ‘Cause you’ve talked so much
about the labor movement by which you’re primarily
talking about unions in this particular talk, but what is the future
of the labor movement? I guess the sub-question for that is, how do you get people
who may be very mobilized and in caring about immigrant rights to care about the
transformations in employment and the decimation of worker rights in society, more generally? – Right. In some ways, you’re flipping
the research on its head which is to say, how do we think about the labor movement’s
approach to immigrant rights, but how has the immigrant
rights movement also thought about the labor movement? I’ll give you an anecdote. I was sitting in a seminar with a very well-intentioned
immigration law scholar who was talking about what
are some of the solutions that we’re gonna have
for the large population of young people who have DACA? Once they lose DACA or fallen out of DACA, what are the solutions for them? There was a lot of concern on the part of our clinical faculty to creating resources to help them create
entrepreneurial set-ups, and also from an educational context, people all across this
campus and our campus are thinking creatively
about how to create stipends for the work that that might be doing. In other words, moving away
from a wage-and-hour model that sees these individuals as employees, thinking about the gig
economy as the solution for the economic security
of these workers. The labor law (chuckling),
labor and employment law people threw up their hands and they’re like, we’re not okay with that. And so, I think that that’s also a problem and I think the problem is how does the immigrant rights movement start to think about labor issues as being more than just job creation and also thinking about not only the transaction
relationship between the unions that are gonna show up for
your rally and my rally but also long-lasting change. Yeah, I mean, I think
part of this you’ll see partly in terms of who
votes, who within the labor, who within the immigrant rights movement, who are they gonna endorse? Is it Bernie or is it a more, somebody that looks more like Cory Booker? Just to betray some of my
(chuckling) allegiance. But the policy questions are about economic reformation there. Labor movement on decline. Okay. I come out of a labor school. We love unions even though
it’s deeply in decline. But I think the two main
questions that are on the table are how do we think about the
future of the labor movement one, as the NLRA, the
National Labor Relations Act, and the NLRB, which is
increasingly politicized body, become a non-starter for actually creating collective representation? What do you do in that
context, with Janus, and with the Supreme Court
moving in the direction it is? The second part of this, what does the collective
bargaining agreement look like as a tool to build worker power? And an analogous part to this, which we talked a bit
about in the seminar, which is what is the role
of alt labor worker centers and then the rest? Should their goal be to
look more like a labor union or is it to radically
transform a different basis of worker power? It’s an ongoing, I think, debate amongst legal scholars
and worker advocates as to what makes more sense. I think that that’s gonna continue to be a point of contention. I think the courts are working out to what extent should worker
centers be treated like unions. Employers, I think, would like them to be treated like unions ’cause they’d be subject
to the same restrictions. But also, unions are having to work out to what extent they’re
going to invest in groups that don’t follow the
same rules that they do, not just because it’s a point of charity but because it’s a point
of building worker power in a future that will look more like, what those workers that, you know, and those worker centers in
Central New York looks like than what the central
labor council looks like. I think we’ll see, in some
ways, a generational shift in terms of leadership, but it seems like a concession
on the part of unions to move in that direction but we do have examples of, you know, Fight for $15 being a key positive story, but again, the goal was
fight for $15, not– – And the union!
– Yeah. (chuckles) And the union. Business unions, you know,
that pacify worker struggle. So, yeah, future of the labor movement. When I come here and I meet you guys, I’m optimistic. (chuckles) I hope that answers your question. – [Gretchen] Cool,
well, let’s give Shannon a round of applause.
(audience applauding) Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *