Some labor organizations are speaking out against President Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban entry into the United States for migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world. Others announced plans to fight Trump administration policies on immigration and sanctuary cities.
In Minnesota, community and faith groups plan to protest the executive order at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, outside the U.S. Federal Building, 300 S. 4th St., in downtown Minneapolis.
The state's union of educators issued a statement of support for immigrant and refugee students.
“As president of Education Minnesota, I am proud to say Minnesota’s educators will honor our responsibility to welcome and teach every student who walks through the schoolhouse doors," said Denise Specht. "Today we stand with Muslim students and their families in saying this travel ban is wrong and violates our American ideals, just as we have stood for immigrants from Laos, Somalia, Thailand, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Mexico and as our forerunners once spoke up for immigrant children from Finland, Sweden, Norway and Germany.
“The politics of fear, which are behind this executive order, will never flourish in Minnesota schools. Educators spend their days with students of many faiths and languages and we are enriched by the experience. Our students learn together so they may one day live together. They see that fearing a faith is a sign of ignorance, not courage, and that may give us all hope for a better future.”
AFSCME Minnesota Council 5, a union of 43,000 workers, noted that the state’s foreign-born population includes more than 31,000 people from the seven Muslim nations.
“AFSCME denounces Trump’s illegal Muslim ban,” Council 5 President Judy Wahlberg and Executive Director Eliot Seide said. “We are outraged that his horrific order was executed on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Count on us to resist his politics of hatred, fear and division.”
On Saturday, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents 19,000 drivers in New York City, held a one-hour strike to protest the ban. On Sunday, the ban was a big topic of the nationally televised Screen Actors Guild Awards, where several actors spoke out.
“My father fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France,” said Julia Louis-Dreyfus. “I’m an American patriot. And I love this country, and because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes, and this immigrant ban is a blemish, and it is un-American.”
Protests took place at airports around the country, including Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
“America has a long history of welcoming immigrants, including our Muslim brothers and sisters, to our shores and they are an essential part of what makes our country strong,” Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement. “Scapegoating families who are trying to provide for their children undermines American values.
“SEIU members and our communities are ready to stand up, show up and rise up by the millions to fight for a say in the economic and political system rigged against us by bad corporate actors and self-interested politicians. We will stay in the streets and continue mobilizing until we can return our economy and democracy into the rightful hands of the people.”
United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams issued a statement saying, “We are a nation of immigrants and our union would not exist if immigrants and non-immigrants alike hadn’t fought in solidarity for the rights we cherish today. We must protect national security while remaining true to the very values that have made us a great nation. The UAW opposes discrimination of any kind and denounces any policy that judges people based on their religion or nation of origin.”
The Jewish Labor Committee, formed in response to the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s, urged all unions to speak out against Trump’s ban.
“As Jews, we have been victims of religious and ethnic discrimination, and understand that these need to be combated, especially when they become government policy,” the JLC said. “These refugees need a sanctuary – as we once needed a sanctuary – and the United States cannot close the door on these victims of religious and ethnic violence and hatred …
“We call on our unions, as well as ethnic, religious and other community organizations, to make every effort to counter the proposals regarding refugees of the Trump Administration. We will, and call on others to, make our voices heard through every means appropriate to today’s difficult political climate.”
Before the order blocking refugees was issued, unions were already meeting to address concerns about Trump’s actions regarding immigration.
The constituency groups of the national AFL-CIO – the Asian-Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Labor’s Council for Latin American Advancement, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and Pride at Work – announced a series of moves to mobilize both their members and the wider electorate against Trump’s deportation agenda.
The moves include plans to lobby lawmakers, to campaign locally against police stop-and-frisk tactics – a particular threat to black and brown immigrants and refugees – and the launch of an app that not only details sanctuary cities, but provides names and contact information of local officials to lobby to get their cities and towns to become sanctuaries, too.
Trump “has attacked all of us in the labor movement, and we’re here to say ‘Enough is enough!” said Hector Sanchez, a former top LCLAA official who now chairs the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. “Immigrants and refugees are our families,” he stated.
“They are our members and we will defend their rights and resist” their deportation “all over the nation,” he added.
Trump announced he will pull federal funding from “sanctuary” cities that harbor undocumented immigrants. Immigrant advocates also fear he will dump President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as the “Dream Act,” which granted conditional residency to people who entered the United States as undocumented children. Some 700,000 people could be affected.
Joslyn Williams, speaking for the Coalition of Black Trade Unions, said that even people with proper papers must fight for the undocumented.
“Don’t rest easy. Today, those who are undocumented are in trouble. Tomorrow it could be those who are documented,” Williams said.
This article includes reporting by Mark Gruenberg of Press Associates Union News Service.