August 26, 2014 (Washington, D.C.) – This afternoon, the AFL-CIO hosted a panel discussion on the need for President Obama to advance the rights of workers by taking executive action on immigration. Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, was joined on the panel by workers and pro-immigrant allies.
Karla Vegas, Legal Director for the Worker Defense Project (a project of the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network), highlighted the perils that immigrant workers face.
"The labor movement is driven by its mission to ensure workers have good jobs and fair treatment. This cannot be fully accomplished without immigration relief for the millions of undocumented workers who labor in not only unjust, but dangerous, working conditions.”
Since April of 2013, the AFL-CIO has been working alongside grassroots groups to push for administrative relief to stop the government from using deportations as a weapon against immigrant workers and their families. There are currently 8 million immigrants, five percent of the labor force, who are working in the United States without documents. Their vulnerable position makes them a target for unscrupulous employers who exploit these hardworking men and women by using them as cheap labor, in turn suppressing wages and conditions for all workers.
Reyna Sorto shared her experiences as an undocumented worker.
“I worked in a company named Tito's Contractors for 10 years and 10 months. My job there was as a laborer, separating recyclable materials. Although my work was physically heavy on me I always gave it my best effort; I have always been very proud of doing my job as a woman. At the same time I also had to endure a lot of sexual harassment in my workplace; working even when I was sick out of fear of losing my job, and almost losing it in 2008 when I got pregnant.”
Lorella Praeli of United We Dream highlighted the legal significance of executive action.
“In line with many legal scholars, UWD fully believes that the President has the constitutional and legal authority to defer action on individual cases and confer employment authorization to millions on the grounds of prosecutorial discretion. The President has a historic opportunity to show courage where Republicans showed cowardice by starting the process that only Congress can finish.”
The panel also included Matthew Ginsburg, Associate General Counsel of the AFL-CIO, Emilio Garcia Lagunes, a member of the United Steel Workers, Jayesh Rathod of American University’s Washington college of Law, Charles Kamasaki of the National Council of La Raza, Nadia Marin of the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network, Andrea Mercado of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance and Sonia Ramirez of the Building and Construction Trades Department.
Contact: Jeff Hauser (202) 637-5018