April 8, 2013 (San Diego)— Briggete Browning, President of the Unite Here Local 30, opened today’s rally with some great news. The San Diego Nine still have a job tomorrow. “They do not have the job security that they will be able to continue to work, but this is the first step in this victory.”
The Company has felt the pressure from the community. “It’s still unacceptable what is happening here, their lives remain in flux, but we hope Evolution will do the right thing.”
But what is happening here is an example, a textbook example of why immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform, is needed. The first step, is to stop the use of E-Verify.
Aguilar from the Service Employees International Union, SEIU (Forgive me, I did not catch the full name, and have been looking for it), came next.
Aguilar said, the “SEIU is here in solidarity to support the Strikers.” She added, “from the first day our members came to support them. Among them Theresa Diaz, who last year had a first hand experience when janitors who had worked for over twenty years, and were active Union Members lost their jobs.”
In her mind “we need to bring a solution to this problem.” She then called Sarah Garcia (who I have talked with over the course of the week many a times, in fact I have with all of them) “who is a grassroots organizer.”
She turned to all the strikers and told them, “it is a sacrifice to be here, and not have anything to eat.”
Then Aguilar turned to the Employees who are still at risk of losing their jobs, “this hunger strike reminds us that we are facing a crisis at this moment in time.” This is done for the sake of the children, who at times face a worried parent, who tells them, “lo siento mi hijo, no tengo para darte de comer, I am sorry my son, I don’t have money to feed you, porque no tengo trabajo, because I have no work.”
With great feeling she reminded the audience that we need comprehensive immigration reform.
Pedro Rios, an advocate for Immigration Reform, broke some news. Tomorrow morning the City Council of San Diego will vote on a City Resolution supporting comprehensive immigration reform.
He also said that this reform needs to get rid of E-Verify. “It is used to pit workers against each other.”
He added that over the last ten years we have seen families separated, parents who have to go to work in the trunk of cars and the Border Patrol handcuffing children. We need “all these families to live with dignity.” Moroever, “the pathway to citizenship must be inclusive.”
He reminded the audience that “the human rights community stands wit the workers.” He added, “a hunger strike is not to be taken lightly.”
Maria Helena Durazo came next. She is one of the first leaders to speak of immigration reform before it was rational.
Her words were stirring, “sisters and brothers you have a great movement of workers, faith leaders, the community, and elected officials. This is a national movement.”
She then reminded us of the Sanitation Workers strike forty five years ago, Durazo was in Memphis with America Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Those municipal workers broke the law, but they were done with the mistreatment. They took a stand. She quoted Martin Luther King, who participated in that struggle and died at the Memphis Hotel, “All work has dignity.”
“This is what this is about.”
She turned to the workers. “Word is spreading nationwide. We are going to make your case a national case. We are connecting all these struggles into a movement.”
She then turned to the audience, and reminded us that even Conservative Republicans are in favor of it. (The Gang of Eight is getting together this week and we are expected to have a vote in the US Senate.)
She looked at the workers, and said that it was a shame that the company was doing what it was doing, when the course of history was moving forwards. “As we move towards reform, they intimidate workers. Shame on you!”
She also said that they were going to visit with Senators (Barbara) Boxer and (Dianne) Feinstein. They intend to bring this to the White House. “We demand respect for workers in this country.”
“What the hotel is doing, is as if we were in the middle of a war, a truce has been agreed upon and one side killed Prisoners of War.” They are going against the country.
Frank Pazos came after being called by Browning. Pazos was one of the nine hunger strikers, who had to step aside last night for health reasons. Pazos reminded us that all this was to ensure “that these workers still have a job tomorrow.”
“It is not about us, it is about them.”
A delegation made of Durazo, Rabbi Laurie Coskie, Browning and two more went into the hotel to ask what was the next step? They came back fifteen minutes later. The Hotel was willing to look into this. And the hotel General Manager agreed that they were essentially correct. He was also the child of immigrants. According to the Rabbi, he did look a little scared.
Finally, before calling it a day, (it is 23:15, I am still working), Madrazo went into the national nature of this movement. They had a town hall meeting in Modesto, CA; they had twelve hundred people demanding reform. This is a national movement, and it cannot be stopped.
Stepping a tad outside the reporter role, and into the role of history. What I have witnessed this week, is exactly what I have suspected for a while is going on. The Labor movement, which has been in it’s last gasps, is starting to show signs of real life. It will not be this week, perhaps not this year, but within a decade we will likely see a much stronger movement. Where this is happening is in the service industry, among the lowest paid workers. This follows a historic pattern.