Immigration Alert Forum
Teamsters Local 952
January 21, 2006
On January 21, 2006, Teamsters Local 952 held an Immigration Alert
Forum at its hall in Orange, CA. The process of organizing it started
when principal officer Patrick D. Kelly felt we had to make better
sense of the different legislation coming from the Washington DC belt
way. In conversations with advocates, labor leaders and elected
public officials, everyone recognized the need to hold this kind of
forum. We felt it was necessary to understand the legislation
currently in Congress, and the way each legislative proposal would
affect workers, unions and community organizations.
We need to define the issues of immigration reform out here where we
experience the problems, and not allow Washington DC advocates to be
the sole authors and spokespeople about the solutions to these
Additionally, we felt a need to challenge the pejorative depiction of
immigrants throughout Orange Country. Here in Orange County we intend
to find common ground and organize against the xenophobia. In our area
founders of the Minutemen run for Congress, solely on a platform of
immigrant bashing. We anticipate more of this.
The panel was comprised of labor leaders, elected public officials
and immigrant rights advocates. The panelists were as follows:
David Bacon, Journalist, photographer and immigrant rights
Maria Elena Hincapie, Attorney for the National Immigration Law
Xiomara E. Corpeño Director of Organizing for the Coalition
for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA);
Lucio Reyes, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 601 and IBT
Nativo Lopez, President Mexican American Political Association
Loretta Sanchez, Congressional Representative
Katrina Foley, Costa Mesa City Council Member
Mike García, President SEIU Local #1877;
Diana Tellefson, United Farm Workers of America National
Immigration Reform Field Director;
Robert Ruiz, Secretary Treasurer LIUNA Local #652,
Yvette Pena Lopes, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Al Ybarra, Secretary-Treasurer Orange County Central Labor
Patrick D. Kelly, Secretary-Treasurer Teamsters Local #952.
The Forum was open to the public. Union staff and members attended
from Teamsters, Laborers, HERE/UNITE!, SEIU, and the Orange County
Central Labor Council, along with advocates, community leaders, policy
makers, law firms, and other interested people.
… Patrick D. Kelly facilitated the
discussion and expressed serious concern regarding any legislation
that allows for guest workers. It undermines unionization and the
ability to improve good wages and working conditions.
… Yvette Pena Lopes depicted how bad the
legislation is and explained the Teamsters Union's opposition to Guest
Workers provision in the McCain Kennedy bill. The union has not
endorsed the bill for that reason.
… David Bacon gave an overview and
reality check about causes of migration. He outlined the reasons
why big corporations want guest worker programs, and said increased
employer sanctions would be disastrous for unions and immigrant
workers. We should stop Congress from acting on immigration
reform, since any proposal likely to pass would be harmful. We
need time to get together our own agenda for reform, but if we do, he
said, we can win if we find common ground between labor, Latinos and
African Americans based on fighting for immigration reform, civil
rights and jobs.
… Maria Elena Hincapie went over the
extremely negative provisions of the Real ID Act. She also said
we may have to stop Congress from acting on any immigration reform to
prevent harmful bills from passing.
… Robert Ruiz asked that everyone take
back what they have learned in this forum to their membership, and
emphasized that the Laborers Union was committed to immigrant
… Xiomara Corpeño from CHIRLA said that
McCain Kennedy is a politically realistic bill. They consulted
immigrants, and while the bill disturbed some, others wanted the
legalization provisions. Immigrants have to have a larger voice
in the debate, she emphasized.
… Lucio Reyes said that we need a new
amnesty, and proposed that anyone in country for a year should get a
green card. This was the kind of provision passed in 1986, he
said. Guest worker proposals will be used to attack workers and
unions, he warned.
… Diana Tellefson called for support of
the AGjobs bill and said it would facilitate legalization for
agricultural workers if they meet a requirement of being employed in
the industry for a specific period of time.
… Nativo Lopez gave a summary of the
racism and xenophobia that went back many years and that the Labor
Movement itself had played a role in the early years. Our criteria for
what we support should be what helps immigrants to organize. For
that reason, guest worker proposals and sanctions should be opposed,
since employers use them to attack immigrants and labor. He
called for a boycott of Costa Mesa businesses that support the Police
enforcement of immigration law, and the whole exclusion and
… Loretta Sanchez said that there's a big
labor shortage, so employers need guest workers, and Congress has to
respond. The rightwing in Congress is so powerful, however, that
it's hard to fight bills like the Real ID Act. We may have to
try to kill any immigration reform bill, since they're all so bad.
… Mike Garcia asserted that immigrants
have been scape-goated and are under attack. He elaborated on the fact
that we are losing the war on the issue of immigrant bashing.
Employers profit on the basis of exploitation of immigrant workers. He
closed with a multi-point plan that puts emphasis on political power
through organizing workers and building a strong labor movement.
… Katrina Foley requested support for her
efforts to oppose her Local Police Department from doing ICE
enforcement. She called for a fight against the racism driving
… Al Ybarra said that racism from the
past is rearing its ugly head again as if it were a cycle.
Comments from the audience included concern about the City of Costa
Mesa Police performing immigration enforcement work, and the extension
of this idea to other Orange County police departments. Audience
members wanted the labor movement to do more to help organize
immigrant workers, and to oppose the anti immigrant attacks in City
Hall. People also called for organizing naturalization
There is a growing concern about the legislation being proposed in
Washington. Racist, anti worker, anti union and anti immigrant voices
have been louder than progressive ones. This requires a rapid
response from a labor/community alliance. Attacks against immigrants
have gone without a powerful outcry and it is time to turn the
As a local union we have taken a position on a defining issue at a
critical time. For the labor movement to grow, it must take a stand
against the inhumane treatment of workers and their families -- in and
out of the workplace. It must build alliances with other progressive
forces to build power and increase union density in specific
There is also concern about proposals in Washington that would
establish guest worker programs, and increase enforcement of employer
sanctions. Both of these would be used to attack workers and
unions. Instead of compromising with rightwing forces and big
corporations, we need our own agenda for immigration reform. We
have to build alliances with other communities of workers, especially
African Americans, to win those demands.
As with many good conferences, success is measured not only in the
quality of panelists or speakers, or the scale of attendance, but in
the follow up work that has to be done.
This event called for organizing and coalition building.
As a first step we should create a coalition to organize a rapid
response team to fight all proposals attacking and blaming
We need a strong local labor movement that speaks out for immigrants
and their families. We should identify industries and workers we
want to organize, and actively support sister unions that are
organizing immigrant workers.
We should oppose those proposals for immigration reform that will make
it harder for workers to organize, and weaken our efforts to build
strong unions. Two of the most dangerous proposals are guest
workers and employer sanctions.
It is also imperative to engage our members, foreign born and native
born alike. We have to educate native-born members so that
they see, as trade unionists, that defending the rights of immigrant
workers affects their own collective bargaining power. Then we have to
mobilize our members, foreign born and native born, to flood the
streets, city hall chambers, and phone banks - harnessing their anger
and converting it into proactive action.
For more information, contact:
Teamsters Local 952
140 South Marks Way
Orange, California 92868
Phone (714) 740-6246
Phone (510) 851-1589