To Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump, Immigrants Have No Rights

Ethan Miller

Ethan Miller Communications Strategist, Jobs with Justice

People working at a meat distribution warehouse in Brooklyn were tired of working for unsustainable pay without health insurance, paid holidays or overtime pay, so they decided to come together to improve their jobs. Their company immediately threatened and fired individuals for their support of a union, but they persisted in wanting to achieve a better workplace. In 2005 they voted to join together in union, yet their bosses refused to negotiate with them. After the workers took them to court, the company claimed it had no obligation to honor its employees’ union because some of the people it hired were undocumented immigrants.

The company, Agriprocessors Inc, lost its case before the National Labor Relations Board, appealed the decision, and then lost again before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In fact, the only judge who agreed with the company’s ludicrous argument was Brett Kavanaugh, now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

This saga isn’t the only time Agriprocessors has been in the news. In 2008, while under investigation by numerous state and federal agencies for alarming workplace conditions, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers raided a Postville, Iowa meatpacking plant owned by Agriprocessors, resulting in arrests of nearly 400 immigrants working in the plant. Instead of being recognized as victims and witnesses of crimes such as labor trafficking and workplace abuses, the employees were treated as criminals.

Just two days after the raid, the Des Moines Register published a lengthy article detailing the history of workplace safety violations at the plant, including nine citations within just two years. Immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico who worked for Agriprocessors complained of child labor, sexual and physical abuse by supervisors, underpayment, and severe health and safety abuses.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division had been coordinating its investigation with ICE up until the raid, which was staged without any prior notice to the Labor Department.

ICE pursued the raid using the workers’ complaints of the company’s wrongdoings as a basis. The agency’s warrant affidavit even recited allegations that a supervisor “duct-taped the eyes of an employee” and then “took one of the meat hooks” to hit a worker. The agency had also received notification from a union that it should avoid investigating the company while working people at the slaughterhouse were trying to join together to blow the whistle on deplorable working conditions.

One of the managers of the plant (and the son of the owner), Sholom Rubashkin, was eventually sentenced to 27 years in federal prison on charges stemming from the raid. But on December 20, 2017, President Trump commuted Rubashkin’s sentence, after he had served less than a third of his prison term.

Rubashkin’s case is not the only time Trump has used his pardon powers to let off a serial abuser of immigrants. In August 2017, Trump pardoned former Maricopa County, Arizona Sherriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge’s order to stop racially profiling and detaining Latinos simply on the suspicion that they did not have legal status. Arpaio gained notoriety for the inhumane conditions that he forced inmates of the jail he ran to live in, including a “tent city” prison in the Arizona heat.

These cases suggest that, in Trump’s America, immigrants have no right to hold a job free from abuse and suffering. In Trump’s America, people who have abusing immigrants like Sholom Rubashkin and Joe Arpaio can trust they will have their rights restored, while immigrants aren’t given a chance to speak up for themselves in court. In Trump’s America, judicial appointees can use their positions to freely shield corporations and the wealthiest few while denying immigrants the freedoms they should be able to exercise. In Trump’s America, instead of the government obtaining justice for immigrants who protest unlawful working conditions, they face drastic reprisals and deportations. And in Trump’s America, greedy CEOs can make piles of money by abusing immigrants, assured that Trump will bail them out if they are exposed.

With a few exceptions, our courts have so far stood as a bulwark against some of the worst attempts by Trump to dehumanize immigrants. If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, Trump will have an ally on the highest court in the land as he continues his campaign to deny immigrants their fundamental human rights.

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Reposted from Jobs with Justice

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work