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AFL-CIO and the Obama Administration: Immigration Reform for All Workers

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Yesterday, the President of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis sat down to talk about a key workers’ rights issue: comprehensive immigration reform.  The duo made a clear and compelling case for reform that legalizes undocumented immigrants, and explained why comprehensive reform is in the interest of all workers in America – immigrant and native-born.   

The current immigration system undercuts U.S. and immigrant workers, explained Trumka, because bad actor employers take advantage of the undocumented workforce, pay them low wages and force them to work in bad conditions.  American workers simply can’t compete with this unregulated exploitation of undocumented immigrants.  He argued that creating a path to legalization for immigrant workers would end the shadow labor market and level the playing field for Americans, one reason why the AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations came together to push a unified framework for comprehensive immigration reform in 2009.

Secretary Solis agreed, and cited her department’s new ad campaign to raise workers’ awareness about how to report abuses as an effort to improve the broken system.  The Department of Labor campaign reaches out to all workers, making a special effort to encourage undocumented workers to report abuses without fear of repercussions.  

Solis and Trumka’s remarks made it clear that comprehensive immigration reform was the only real and lasting solution.

Trumka lambasted some Members of Congress for claiming immigration reform would hurt American workers.  These same Members consistently vote against workers when it comes to issues like wages, unemployment benefits, and labor protections, he said, to preserve the “underground supply of cheap labor.”

Until members of Congress act on Trumka and Secretary Solis’s guidance, it seems that opponents of reform will have their cake and eat it too—without having to tip the undocumented waiter who brought it to them.

Guest Blogger Will Sharry