workers.orgJuly 14, 2011 Page 3
resstce t hte b hets up
Pht: Kn Li
Immigrant workers charge wage thet
By Dianne MathiowetzAtlanta
Tens of thousands of immigrants andtheir supporters lled blocks of Atlan-ta’s downtown streets on July 2 wearing white, carrying beautiful banners andhand-printed signs, and chanting non-stop in English and Spanish.Many of the slogans referenced HB 87,Georgia’s “show me your papers” legisla-tion, which authorizes local police to actas immigration agents and is designed tointimidate undocumented workers intoleaving the state.The march was led by members of theGeorgia Undocumented Youth Alliance(GUYA), who are challenging the restric-tions on their future and calling for pas-sage of the DREAM Act. Banners calledfor an end to the raids and deportations.Many children carried signs pleadingnot to deport their parents. Challengingthe racist aspects of the law, a huge ban-ner depicting a strong Latina declared:“Brown Is Beautiful.” Numerous signsreferenced the millions of dollars already lost to the state’s agricultural economy ascrops rotted in the elds for lack of skilledfarmworkers.Four counties in Georgia operate under287(g) agreements that have resulted inthe detention and deportation of thou-sands of immigrants, most of whom werearrested for trafc infractions. The larg-est, privately operated detention center isin the town of Lumpkin and holds some1,900 men.Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Stewart DetentionCenter there, has been denounced for itsproteering off the separation of immi-grant families.The failure of the Obama administra-tion and Congress to address legalizationand a just immigration policy was ad-dressed in chants and on placards.In response to a call by the Georgia La-tino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR),protesters came from across the state,from as far as Valdosta, Dalton, Colum- bus and Rome. Supporters from NorthCarolina, Alabama, Florida, Tennesseeand as far away as Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, California and New York joinedthe protest.
Week of intense struggle
The march and rally at the GeorgiaState Capitol capped off a week of intensestruggle by immigrant communities andhuman rights advocates.On June 27 a federal district judgeagreed to grant a temporary injunctionsuspending two sections of HB 87, sched-uled to be enacted on July 1. Judge Thom-as Thrash stopped Georgia from givinglaw enforcement agencies throughout thestate the power to detain and arrest any-one who could not show sufcient identi-cation following any violation, no mat-ter how minor, including trafc stops or jaywalking. He also prevented the imple-mentation of a provision that would makeit illegal to knowingly transport or harboran undocumented person.This is the fourth federal court that has barred states from assuming responsibil-ity for enforcing immigration policies. While immigrant and civil rights ac-tivists hailed this victory in stopping twoof the most egregious sections of HB 87,Georgia law now makes it a crime to usefalse documents to secure a job, punishable by 15 years in prison. Starting in January,most private employers will be required touse the federal E-Verify system, known to be awed, to ascertain the legality of new hires. Citizens will be able to sue electedofcials for failing to uphold HB 87.The day after the federal ruling, GUYA held a “Coming Out of the Shadows” rally inside the state Capitol building whereve young people from Georgia and onefrom New York told their stories. Eachconcluded by saying their name and thatthey were “undocumented and unafraid.” At an outside rally, longtime civilrights leaders and members of the Afri-can-American religious community pro-claimed their support for the immigrants’rights movement. They applauded therole of young people in confronting injus-tice, risking their lives and safety to bringabout needed change.Dressed in caps and gowns, the stu-dents led a crowd of hundreds in a marcharound Georgia State University, one of the state’s ve institutions of higher edu-cation which the Georgia legislature has banned undocumented youth from at-tending.Their lead banner read “Undocument-ed, Unafraid, Unashamed, Unapologetic!”Returning to the Capitol, the studentsspread a large canvas with the words“We Will No Longer Remain in the Shad-ows” in the intersection and sat downsurrounded by supporters. Trafc was brought to a standstill. Eventually, many police arrived and arrested the six. Aseach heroic youth was taken to a policecar, dozens of chanting young people sur-rounded them and the vehicle. All six were charged with multiple stateoffenses. Three were released to their par-ents’ custody because they were under17. The other three spent the night in theFulton County Jail and were then releasedon their own recognizance with an Augustcourt date.This was the second such civil disobedi-ence action in Atlanta with undocument-ed youth risking deportation to press theissue of the status of children who havespent most of their lives in the UnitedStates and have no path to legalization. Without papers, they cannot get a driver’slicense, nd employment, receive public benets or attend Georgia’s top ve uni- versities, regardless of their grades.
July 1 strike spurs resistance
During the week, a number of commu-nity meetings were held in metro Atlantato provide information in multiple lan-guages — from Korean and Chinese to Por-tuguese and Spanish — about the impact of HB 87 and the injunction. Similar events were organized around the state, includingone in Dalton where people were particu-larly concerned about police roadblocks inimmigrant neighborhoods. Students andcommunity members held a rally in Ath-ens on June 30 at the gates to the Universi-ty of Georgia, one of the universities barredto undocumented students.On July 1, the day HB 87 went into ef-fect, GLAHR called for a “Day withoutImmigrants,” a stay-at-home strike wherepeople would not work, shop or go abouttheir usual business. More than 125 busi-nesses owned by immigrants, from beau-ty shops to food markets, closed that day in solidarity. Restaurant, construction,landscaping, hotel and other workers took the day off. Shopping mall parking lots inimmigrant communities were empty.People outside Georgia are encour-aged to cancel any conventions, reunions,meetings or vacations as part of the “Boy-cott of a State of Hate.” Volunteers are coming from through-out the country this summer to help build local resistance to HB 87 and otheranti-immigrant legislation. A campaignto identify “BuySpots” and “Sanctuary Zones” will identify businesses that agreeto publicly oppose HB 87 by refusing toallow police into their establishments tocheck people’s identication without a warrant and by pledging not to nancially support elected ofcials who promote an-ti-immigrant legislation. Already many bookstores, restaurants,clothing and record stores, markets, beau-ty and barber shops display the BuySpotsign. Churches and other religious insti-tutions, community centers, homelessshelters and other public gathering sitesthat make a similar pledge will be identi-ed as Sanctuary Zones. For more infor-mation, visit WeAreGeorgia.org.It is hot in Georgia during any summer, but this summer the heat will be on right- wing politicians, spotlighted by a risingpeople’s movement engaging thousandsof workers, youth and women. They arestepping out of the shadows, undocu-mented and unafraid.
By Martha GrevattDetroit
At a press conference held June 29outside Minute Men Stafng in the pre-dominantly Latino/a neighborhood of southwest Detroit, current and former workers at Mastronardi Produce in Livo-nia, Mich., spoke of their dual exploita-tion by the company and the Minute Mentemporary agency.Many workers talked about long, un-paid hours waiting for a job assignment.Often the stafng agency would thensend them home. If chosen, they werecrammed into vans and taken to Mastro-nardi’s factory, where they might again wait outside in the cold until they wereneeded.Like many companies and temp agen-cies, Mastronardi and Minute Men takeadvantage of workers’ undocumentedstatus and fear of retaliation and beingdeported. The immigrant workers whospoke at the press conference showedgreat courage. However, with Detroit’sunemployment rate well above the na-tional average, many African-American, white and documented Latino/a workersare desperate for work and have also expe-rienced the horrors of working at Mastro-nardi through the agency of Minute Men.On-the-job conditions at Mastronardiare deplorable. Workdays of 12 and evenmore hours are the norm. Worker safety is blatantly disregarded. Examples given were that workers were forced to work around poisonous gases, including duringa major leak of ammonia, and were de-nied bathroom breaks. Injured workers,including an eight-year employee whospoke, get no compensation. The South-east Michigan Coalition for OccupationalSafety and Health (Semcosh) has ledcomplaints on behalf of the workers. A lawsuit led by the Maurice and JaneSugar Law Center for Social and Econom-ic Justice charges Mastronardi and Min-ute Men with improper paycheck deduc-tions, unpaid work time and violations of overtime and minimum wage laws. The workers had to pay for the van rides andfor employee identication badges and were docked for “nonexistent lunch peri-ods and breaks,” according to the Center.Maurice Sugar was the attorney for theUnited Auto Workers during the 1937Flint sit-down strike. He and Jane Sugar were prominent labor and civil rights at-torneys in Detroit for many years.Speaking in support of the work-ers were State Rep. Rasheeda Tlaib andDetroit City Council member KwameKenyatta, along with representatives of the Sugar Law Center, Semcosh and the Alliance for Immigration Reform.