Unions have made clear they don’t think laws and the courts matter as they rallied Monday in support of President Barack Obama’s contested amnesty.
In a statement released as part of the nationwide rally, the AFL-CIO declared it will not wait for Congress or the courts to act on immigration. Tuesday was originally supposed to be the first day illegal immigrants could apply for deportation relief and work authorization under the president’s executive order, but a federal district court in Texas granted a preliminary injunction in February that temporarily blocked the order.
“Far from paralyzing us, the current legal injunction of the deferred action programs further highlight something that we in the labor movement know very well: that organizing is the only real force that moves our country forward,” AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre said in a statement.
The executive order would have expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs to include millions more immigrants currently in the country illegally. The AFL-CIO was joined by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC), National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), UNITE-HERE and the Ironworkers union in its call for action.
“And for that we say to the politicians who have held it up—shame on you,” UFCW Executive Vice President Esther López said in a statement. “We know the lawsuit is a political stunt—an effort to scare away immigrant workers from applying for DAPA.”
It is no surprise that organized labor has been so adamantly behind the president and his executive order. Once authorized to work, the millions of immigrants are expected to help unions replenish their membership rates which have been in significant decline in recent years. From the beginning, unions have set up training, workshop and recruitment programs all specifically aimed at the millions of illegal immigrants that may be eligible for amnesty under the executive order.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership continues to go down year after year. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent. In 2014 however, the union membership rate was just 11.1 percent.
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