|Women’s Division Joins African-American, Labor and Immigrant Groups Demanding Reform|
On September 22, Women’s Division racial justice executive, Carol Barton addressed an alliance of African-American, labor and immigration groups gathered at the Federal Building in New York City, which is demanding reform and justice for workers in the United States. While she spoke, similar groups across the country demonstrated in support of proposed reforms to be considered by Congress later this year.
The nationwide alliance, calling themselves “Break the Chains,” is demanding that the government stop bringing undocumented immigrants into the country via guest worker programs and the Employer Sanctions provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).
The demonstrations were timely, as Congress prepares to discuss immigration reforms. To counter present laws, the alliance is proposing a new legislative initiative that will “create good jobs for all and promote national unity and security.”
Ms. Barton told the New York City group that the current law undermines human rights of undocumented workers who are forced to work without any labor protections, as well as documented foreign-born and citizen workers.
“As employers continue to hire undocumented workers at sub-minimum wages, they use sanctions as a weapon that prevents all workers from demanding fair wages, benefits and adequate conditions,” she said.
“As the Racial Justice Program, we are particularly concerned about how these practices have pitted documented workers--both immigrant and U.S.-born -- against undocumented workers, in a competition for jobs. This intensifies economic, social, and racial/ethnic disparities and feeds tensions among us. While undocumented workers are forced to work in super-exploitative conditions, documented workers feel resentment at the loss of quality jobs, even as employers continue to profit,” Ms. Barton said.
She pointed out that the quest to repeal the employer sanction provision of IRCA is an intrinsic part of the nation’s struggle for civil rights.
“We recognize the leadership of the African-American community in this ongoing struggle, and lift up the immigrant voices that have built, and continue to build on this legacy. Thus, through this campaign we also seek to engage African American workers, “white” citizen workers and immigrant workers of all races in a dialogue that will build bridges and move us beyond tensions and competition to a strong alliance for economic and racial justice in this land.”
According to the mission statement of Break the Chains, “the alliance calls for the repeal of the Employer Sanctions Provisions, but (it is) also in support of measures that will allow undocumented immigrants to adjust their immigration status, and will strengthen labor law and its enforcement.”
“Employer Sanctions has undercut working conditions for all American workers, by creating an underclass of undocumented workers who have no rights and are forced to work under slave-like conditions for pay that no American worker can survive on. It has expanded the underground economy to a point where law-abiding businesses cannot compete,” said a statement from the alliance.
“Employer Sanctions is one of the main factors that caused illegal immigration to increase almost ten-fold,” the statement continued. “U.S. citizens and immigrant workers are uniting to call for a repeal of this law and the creation of measures to allow undocumented workers to adjust their immigration status.”
The Women’s Division has a long-standing commitment to racial justice, economic justice, and immigrant rights. The social policy of The United Methodist Church calls on the denomination to embrace and act justly toward the “sojourner,” a biblical reference to strangers in the midst.
According to the denomination’s Book of Resolutions, United Methodists are called to “support legislative action that protects the poor and oppressed in their quest for survival and peace; to advocate for human rights for all people, including the strangers who sojourn in our land; and to…work with community organizations to provide forums for citizens to voice concerns, educate one another and confront the problems of racism and fear or hatred of foreigners as obstacles to building community.”
The Women’s Division represents United Methodist Women, an organization of almost one-million members, whose purpose is to foster spiritual growth, develop leaders and advocate for justice. Members raise some $25 million a year for programs and projects related to women, children and youth in the United States and more than 100 countries around the world.
Date posted: Sep 29, 2005