Should Labor Unions Support an Immigration Amnesty?

PRO (yes)

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), in a Jan. 17, 2007 press release entitled "Text of Letter to Senator Kennedy from SEIU Leaders - SEIU Announces Agenda for Comprehensive Immigration Reform," stated:

"Hard working, tax-paying immigrants who are living in this country should be given every opportunity to come forward, pay a fine, and earn legal status and a path toward citizenship. Successful reform mandates the most expansive earned legalization provisions that would make eligible the largest number of undocumented persons...

The benefits of an expansive legalization program are clear: employer compliance with withholding requirements is best achieved by the highest level of participation in the legalization programs; people will come out of the shadows and be able to work at higher paying and more secure jobs; and families will be reunited."

Jan. 17, 2007 - Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 

The American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), in a Feb. 16, 2000 policy statement from its Executive Council titled "The AFL-CIO Calls for Amnesty," stated:

"Millions of hard-working people who make enormous contributions to their communities and workplace are denied basic human rights because of their undocumented status... The AFL-CIO supports a new amnesty program that would allow these members of local communities to adjust their status to permanent residents and become eligible for naturalization."

Feb. 16, 2000 - American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) 

John J. Sweeney, President of the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), in a June 1, 2005 letter to the National and International Union Presidents, wrote:

"Senators McCain and Kennedy introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will provide a path to legal status to the 12 million people who have been working hard, paying their taxes and contributing to their communities... We are strongly supportive of the concept of legalization, recognizing that raising the floor for undocumented workers and bringing them out of the shadows will improve working conditions for all workers. We are also in agreement that if this bill moves forward, we will seek expand its labor protections considerably to ensure a positive outcome for all workers."

June 1, 2005 - John J. Sweeney 

David Bacon, Co-chair of the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights, in an Feb. 23, 2000 response to the previous day New York Times editorial titled "Hasty Call for Amnesty," wrote:

"The New York Times editorial criticising the recent change in position by the AFL-CIO on immigration is factually wrong on a number of counts, and in its conclusion, would perpetuate the discrimination and second-class status suffered by millions of people... We need to create a human community in this country in which people do not have to live in fear, and are not subject to discrimination.

What undermines the integrity of our country's immigration laws is their use to keep millions of people in a state of vulnerability and illegality... How ironic -- that our current political climate removes welfare and social benefits in the name of the work ethic (with the support of the Times), and then punishes the undocumented for the crime of working... Our laws should start with the intention of protecting the human rights of migrants...

We need a new amnesty to guarantee basic human and labor rights to the people who live in this country, both now and in the future. The AFL-CIO is right."

Feb. 23, 2000 - David Bacon 

CON (no)

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), in a May 30, 2007 document from President Edwin D. Hill titled "Letter Sent to All Senators," in opposition to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (often referred as the amnesty bill), wrote:

"On behalf of the 725,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), I write to urge you to oppose S. 1348, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007... this legislation would, for the first time in over 40 years, deviate from the long-held American value that anyone who arrives on our shores legally be afforded a path to citizenship... Americans have earned a middle-class life style and Congress should be working to protect it, not take it away... In considering legislation to fix America’s broken immigration system, Congress should first do no harm... I respectfully request that you oppose S. 1348."

May 30, 2007 - International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) 

NumbersUSA, an advocacy group for immigration reduction, in its website section entitled "Interests - Unions," (accessed Oct. 9, 2007), offered the following:

"The union bosses would reward their [illegal aliens] lawbreaking with U.S. citizenship. As a result of the new action, the AFL-CIO has placed itself on the same side as sweat shop operators and the most egregious of cheap-labor industrialists in their desire to globalize the U.S. labor market... Since global wage averages are a small fraction of current U.S. wages, the AFL-CIO has adopted a policy that condemns American workers to a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions. Immigrants -- and especially illegal aliens -- have proven to be much easier to organize and to make into new union members. The AFL-CIO sees illegal aliens as a lucrative market for dues to keep the bureaucracy of organized labor humming."

Oct. 9, 2007 - 

Virginia Deane Abernethy, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, in a Sep. 5, 2004 section titled "Unions Betray Their Historic Constituency," offered the following:

"In 1924, Gompers [founder of the American Federation of Labor] wrote to Congress in support of the restrictive immigration act then being considered, and ultimately enacted. There was a patriot!

Little more than a century later, his honorable tradition has been abandoned. Today’s labor union leaders betray their constituency, putting its interests below their own selfish efforts to sustain their personal power. Today’s unionistas support mass immigration because poor and uneducated immigrants are potential recruits... in 2001, contemporary labor union leaders ignored Gompers’ wisdom in order to espouse mass immigration, including even illegal immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens."

Sep. 5, 2004 - Virginia Deane Abernethy, PhD 

The New York Times, in a Feb. 22, 2000 editorial entitled "Hasty Call for Amnesty," offered the following:

"The A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s call for the government to grant amnesty to an estimated six million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States and to eliminate most sanctions on employers who hire them in the future was a surprising turnabout... the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s proposal should be rejected. Amnesty would undermine the integrity of the country's immigration laws and would depress the wages of its lowest-paid native-born workers... Illegal immigration of unskilled workers induced by another amnesty would make matters worse. The better course of action is to honor America's proud tradition by continuing to welcome legal immigrants and find ways to punish employers who refuse to obey the law."

Feb. 22, 2000 - New York Times