California unions, lawmakers move to protect the undocumented

SACRAMENTO—Making very clear the contrast between California and Washington, D.C., the Golden State’s unions and its lawmakers are moving to protect undocumented workers and immigrants against the depredations and deportations of the national Republican Trump administration.

A big salvo will come on April 19 when the State Assembly Labor Committee holds a mass hearing on a long list of labor-oriented legislation, with the pro-undocumented worker protection measure, AB450, near the top of the list.

To be fair to the Assembly’s outnumbered anti-worker Republican minority, the session will also include testimony on their measure, AB1174, to make California, the nation’s largest state, a so-called “right to work” state. That legislation, by State Reps. Matthew Harper, R-Costa Mesa, and Melissa Melendez, R-Murrieta, is expected to go down the drain.

The undocumented worker legislation, supported by the state AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, SEIU California, SEIU-United Service Workers West, and other pro-worker, civic, community and civil rights groups, is in direct contrast to the schemes hatched by the ruling Republicans in the Nation’s Capital, 3,000 miles to the east.

Topping them: Republican President Donald Trump’s plan to “build a wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border – which includes the California-Mexico border – to get Mexico to pay for it – and to deport millions of people from the U.S. because of their skin color and Hispanic ethnic background.  He’s also ordered massive Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids.

“No one should live in fear for simply going to work,” the state fed said in joining State Rep. David Chiu, D-San Francisco, for a March 24 rally to unveil AB450. “Yet, for many immigrants, this is the harsh reality under President Trump’s increasingly aggressive deportation actions, which threaten California immigrant workers, employers and our economy.”

“Immigrant workers are living in a constant state of deep anxiety as the Trump administration continues its threats to tear their families apart,” said state fed Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski.

“No one should have to live in fear at work. Yet, every single day immigrant workers and their employers are faced with the threat of indiscriminate workplace raids that would harm families, disrupt business and weaken California’s economy. AB450 sends a clear message that California is committed to protecting immigrant workers on the job.”

Chiu’s bill gives firm “affirmative (state) protections” against indiscriminate raids by ICE agents, plus legal protections for targeted individuals, such as requiring raiders to produce judicial warrants before entering. Fines of $10,000-$25,000 per violation would be imposed.

And the ICE raiders can only demand confidential worker information if they have a subpoena for it. Worker reps, such as union reps, must be notified, too, Chiu’s bill says. The bill also includes other pro-worker protections.

ICE, which has been rounding up undocumented people by the thousands in other states – under Trump’s directives, used arrest warrants for single workers as excuses for wholesale workplace raids in California, Chiu said. ICE agents are also detaining U.S. citizens and legal residents, he adds.

“AB450 is California’s latest and boldest challenge to the Trump deportation force that has mercilessly targeted immigrants despite their significant contributions to our communities and our economy,” said SEIU-USWW President David Huerta. “With this bill, our state can be proud to lead the nation with the strongest resistance efforts to protect workers not just in the community but in the workplace where hard-working people make California and our economy successful every day.”

In a recent column, Teamsters Local 396 Secretary-Treasurer Ron Herrera, who represents UPS and other workers in Southern California, added his voice:

“In the last few weeks, we have seen an increase of attacks on our immigrant sisters and brothers in ICE raids at homes, job-sites, and schools,” he wrote. “Our members, many of whom are immigrants, are standing strong. These raids harm our economy, destroy our communities, tear families apart, and do not embody values we hold as Teamsters.

“The American Dream is rooted in the ethics and values that we have always held and fought for as Teamsters, such as the belief in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay for all workers. The workers I represent in the waste and recycling industry are overwhelmingly Latina/o immigrants. They are on the front lines, keeping our streets clean and protecting our environment by picking up and sorting waste and recyclable materials. When I look at my members, I know that our immigrant sisters and brothers make us stronger, not weaker…While some seek to harm immigrants, we as Teamsters must welcome them into our brotherhood.

“I encourage my Teamster brothers and sisters, regardless of your industry, status, or personal background, to stand with our sisters and brothers in the immigrant community, as they face an unprecedented attack on their basic rights and their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Our strongest defense against injustice has always been each other, and as proud Teamsters, now is the time to show the world what we’re made of.

After all, an attack on one Teamster is an attack on all Teamsters.” Legislation isn’t the only area with a clear contrast between California and D.C.

On April 1, workplace safety protection standards for health care workers took effect statewide, AFSCME reported. National Nurses United and its California affiliate also pushed hard for the standards and are pushing them on the national level – while the GOP-run Congress turns a deaf ear.

California AFSCME said the state’s new regulations cover both public- and private-sector workers, including home care providers and emergency medical technicians. One rule orders health care facilities to implement “an effective workplace violence prevention plan that is in effect at all times in every unit, service, and operation.”

“A chair and a pen are not perceived as weapons or instruments designed to inflict death or serious injury, but I, personally, have been attacked at my hospital with a chair,” AFSCME member Rosa Carcamo, a nurse, told state regulators. “My co-worker was placed in a choke hold while a patient held a pen to her jugular.” She said regulators should define a weapon to include “fashioned, improvised, and makeshift weapons.”

“In the final regulation, a ‘dangerous weapon’ is defined broadly to mean ‘an instrument capable of inflicting death or serious bodily injury.’ That could be a makeshift weapon,” AFSCME reported. The rules were adopted unanimously.

In 2016, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that in California alone, 26 percent of the more than 4,000 workplace injuries from 2003 to 2013 “were due to patient assaults and amounted to $16.6 million in worker’s compensation costs over this time.”

Source: PAI