When it comes to Congress, history has taught us that pushing for an issue is better done with a common goal than a divided one. Take immigration reform, for instance. The last time that serious comprehensive immigration legislation was introduced and reviewed by those on the Hill was in 2007. What was one of the contributing factors that eventually led to its failure to pass? Obvious enough, it was the inability of groups to come together in a singular voice. Different organizations each had their own take on what immigration reform meant. They each had divergent expectations of what was needed to meet the needs of illegal immigrants and American society. This is not to say that they never agreed, but that their failure to provide an entirely unified set of principles ultimately hindered the strength of the legislation.
Having learned from their mistakes, two of the major labor organizations have recently decided to join forces in tackling the issue moving forward. Leaders from AFL-CIO and Change to Win announced that they will come to an accord and provide to President Obama and Congress a mutual set of goals for the reform. This will prove to be very helpful for the President as he revisits the issue in the near future. In a statement to the NY Times, John Sweeney, president of AFL-CIO, stated that “the labor movement will work together to make sure that the White House as well as Congress understand that we speak about immigration reform with one voice.”
Despite the benefits of such a union, opponents are still wary of several aspects of immigration reform, including winning the support of the business community and the method that Congress will use to determine how large the temporary worker program needs to be. The two federations have recommended establishing a depoliticized and independent commission, who will determine what the appropriate intake of temporary workers is based on the market demand at given periods. Many within the labor movement call for a shrinking of this program, because it forces workers to remain employed by one entity. This often facilitates violations of rights. With this in mind, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win decided to use workers’ rights as a means of reaching consensus between their visions.
– Marianne Peterson