Teamsters in New York City are doing what unions always do: protecting their workers on the job. And now that includes protecting members who might have run-ins with ICE, because that’s what standing up for workers’ rights is all about. The Daily News has this nifty story on ongoing training sessions aimed at making the Teamsters a “sanctuary union” — though we’re not entirely sure that’s the Teamsters’ name for what they’re doing, or some creative license by the NYDN:
In 27 shops, business agents, supervisors and front-line workers are getting schooled on their rights under U.S. law — and when and how to challenge federal immigration agents who show up to search their work sites.
The training sessions go into detail on ICE procedures, the law, immigrants’ rights, and how to negotiate contracts with employers that will maximize protection for workers if ICE shows up at a job site. The union started offering the training after Teamster Eber Garcia Vasquez, 54, whose spouse is a citizen and who has three US-born kids, was deported to Guatemala after going to an ICE office for what he thought was a routine annual check-in last August. Vasquez had a clean criminal record, and his wife and one son had both applied to sponsor him for a green card. Tough luck said ICE, and off he went, because America is for Not Union white people now.
Furious Teamsters picketed outside 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan, demanding Garcia be returned home. “We were all appalled at what happened to Eber,” Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda told the Daily News at a sanctuary training meeting last week.
“Eber is part of our family — we in the Teamsters rely on each other to get through the tough times,” he said.
Roughly a third of Teamsters members — 40,000 — are immigrants. Miranda said that fear of deportation — or just being hassled — had motivated the union to train union locals on how to lawfully protect their members. It’s that whole solidarity thing, said Miranda:
“When we’re out on strike, we’re all the same on the picket line — what matters is that you’re a Teamster, and fighting with us.
At one class, trainer Luba Cortés explained the difference between a judicial warrant, which has the name of a court and a judge on it, and allows law enforcement to conduct a search, and an administrative warrant, which ICE agents often show to convince job site supervisors to let ICE search a workplace. It says “warrant” on it, after all, even though it’s only been signed by an ICE supervisor and doesn’t actually empower agents to search anything. But once you invite them in to search, they’ll be happy to root around and question workers.
One of the Teamsters attending the class, Mike Spinelli of Local 553, said immigrant members of his local who work at a dairy farm on Long Island were shaken by ICE’s recent mass raids at 7-Eleven stores across the country:
“We deliver all the dairy to all the 7-Eleven stores in the city — you can imagine how scared some of these guys are,” he said. “It’s a scary time in general, and we’re hoping this can help the workers feel prepared and help protect them — and also so employers know they don’t have to just roll over.”
Cortés emphasized that supervisors and employers aren’t obliged to do any more than comply with the exact legal requests made by ICE:
“You are not obligated to turn over extra information if authorities come looking for a certain person,” she said. “You don’t have to say, ‘Oh, he’s not here but you can find him at the corner store,’ or offer to look up a home address or things like that.”
The training also focuses on winning agreements in contracts that will maximize worker protections, as suggested in a six-page negotiation guide distributed during one class by Legal Aid attorney Richard Blum. Unions can demand that employers will comply with immigration law, but do nothing beyond what’s absolutely required in dealing with ICE. Contracts could also require notification of a union representative after an enforcement action, and job security for immigrant workers, such as
“a guarantee that if a worker is required to get more paperwork, they be given the maximum time available, and returned with full seniority. Or if they can’t return, they get severance, things like that.”
Another local leader, Vinnie Marino, briefly apologized for having a name straight from a screenplay before saying one of his members is a Dreamer who was brought to the US when the kid was ten, and is constantly afraid ICE will come for him despite his current protected status under DACA:
“He’s a great kid, 22 years old, works really hard and shows up on time every day,” said Marino, whose truck-driving members supply the city’s bars, hotels, restaurants and stores with wine and liquor.
“He has to check in with authorities every two years and this last time they gave him a really hard time — we had to get a lawyer involved,” he said. “He got through it, but he has to do it again fairly soon, and the lawyer said there’s not much she can do. He’s just living in limbo and terrified he’ll get deported.”
We can only imagine how this will get spun on Fox News: Union thugs helping illegal immigrants? Don’t they know Those People are all out to take their jobs, behead them, or both? What is this crazy world coming to when a union starts thinking solidarity applies to people who clearly don’t belong in America?