National labor leaders have come out in strong opposition to Alabama’s HB 56 anti-immigrant law, noting the disturbing parallels between the law and Alabama’s civil rights history, and calling on the state to repeal the law.
Among the key labor leaders speaking out against HB 56 are AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who co-authored an op-ed with Martin Luther King III that noted that the “passage of Alabama’s anti-immigrant legislation, HB 56, invokes inhumanity reminiscent of the Jim Crow South…Our immigration system is broken, but our answer as a nation cannot be to terrorize and criminalize families. Our immigration policy must be consistent with our core values and our moral obligation to treat all people with dignity and respect.”
National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel stated of the Alabama law, “We haven’t seen anything as ugly as this since the days of segregation…The message ‘you’re not welcome here’ harks back to another period in history when children were denied the right to an education – a period America’s students should never have to revisit.”
And this past weekend, Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) appeared on Telemundo’s Enfoque to discuss the importance of including immigrant rights in the recreation of the historic Selma to Montgomery, AL civil rights march. Said Medina, “For the first time, the Latino community and African-Americans are uniting to fight, not only against HB 56, but for civil rights; for the right to vote…I believe that this could be the beginning of something tremendous in this country.”
Today, Bob King of the United Auto Workers (UAW) adds his voice, writing a powerful op-ed in the Detroit News outlining UAW’s support for including immigration in the Selma to Montgomery march, as well as support for the union’s call to major foreign automakers asking them to use their power to help repeal HB 56.
For the first time in modern history, African-American and Latino civil rights leaders, labor, women’s rights groups and other supporters of democracy are uniting to fight today’s civil rights struggles against voter suppression and anti-immigrant laws…We are marching for justice and calling on Alabama businesses and major foreign investors — such as Daimler, Hyundai and Honda — to support repeal of H.B. 56. All businesses have a corporate and moral obligation to speak out against laws that discriminate against their customers and harm communities where they have thrived.
The UAW’s unwavering demand for rights is steeped in its history. Our union has fought for civil rights laws since the 1950s, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and legislation to prohibit discrimination against women, the elderly and the disabled. In Alabama — the cradle of the civil rights movement — H.B. 56 has resurrected the dark days of racism and hate to target Latinos and immigrant populations for harassment and arrest. Under this law, anyone who “looks foreign” is caught in the cross-hairs of a law that is enforced by racial profiling and hatred. The resulting climate impacts workers, families, schools and communities. Alabama stands to lose up to $11 billion annually because H.B. 56 poses a major threat to businesses and hurts workers well beyond the state’s borders.
When Daimler considered opening its Mercedes-Benz plant in the state, Alabama vowed to retreat from its racist past. The Confederate flag, a symbol of that racism, was removed from atop the state Capitol. Hyundai and Honda followed Daimler to Alabama as did dozens of foreign auto suppliers. But Alabama reneged on its pledge by enacting H.B. 56. Daimler, Hyundai, Honda and all businesses must now support repeal of H.B. 56. They and most global corporations have corporate policies that endorse civil rights as human rights, and they are ethically obligated to ensure that policies they embrace inside their plants are consistent with the policies they embrace beyond their plant gates.
Failure to speak out against H.B. 56 is a failure of leadership and silent endorsement of racist policies that resulted in this legislation becoming law in the first place. In the midst of our economic challenges, labor, business and government came together to find pragmatic solutions. Similarly, our struggle for civil rights and sound immigration policies will be resolved when we work together on practical, humane solutions. Let’s unite and repeal H.B. 56.