SEATAC PROTEST OF DISGUISED INS RAID TO SQUASH WORKER'S RIGHTS
"Protest at SeaTac Airport to Demand Fair Labor Practices for Immigrant Workers and an End to Racist Scapegoating In the Name of 'National Security' "
The Seattle IMC site probably has photos and coverage of this event as well.
We went to Seattle for the protest of the recent INS arrest and deportation of the immigrant airport Skychef workers who were unionizing at the SeaTac airport in Seattle today. Many unions were represented. Jobs with Justice of Washington organized the event, and there were over 100 people there.
Before the march through the airport baggage terminal, then up into the main check-in areas for the terminals, with a rally inside the airport that was loud and inspiring, we talked to two union workers, one from the ILWU, and another from the Electrical Worker's Union. We followed up the Seattle IMC questions with some of our own. Mainly we wanted to know what was happening with the Longshoremen contract negotiations, because we had heard that the first contract had been rejected in San Fransisco on Friday. This was confirmed, and it was stated that the caucus that had met with management in San Fransisco would be meeting with the rank and file soon, to decide what the caucus should do on August 13th. There will likely be no general strike before that time, was the thinking. If there is a general strike, it is believed that the unions representing the longshoremen, the warehousers, the boatmen, and the teamsters will be supporting the strike as well.
A wrench could be thrown into the works though... Interpret this as you will: The person from the Electrical Worker's Union started asking the person from the ILWU if he knows about the military troops that were training recently at the docks; They were being trained in something not commonly taught to military personnel. They were practicing and learning the operation of cranes that lift containers off ships. The ILWU person replied that he had no idea that was going on... Could the military be preparing to break a dockworker's strike with military "scab" labor?
Then we were told some of the history of the Seattle Port. Apparently, this port authority was created by the people of Seattle to prevent the trend of privatization and monopolies of the shipping industry in 1911. So then, in the 1960's apparently, and up until this day, privatization efforts are continuing to threaten to erode worker's rights in the shipping industry. We were told that the ILWU is fragmented into separate unions, with different contract terms and times in other parts of the country, but that it stands strong and in solidarity on the west coast. Other examples were shared of how Free Trade and Globalization were all part of this corporatization and privatization of industry. I pointed out that the government and corporations are trying to privatize the National Forests as well, with their Fee Demo program, that seems to be intended to segway into the Charter Forest program. There was agreement that these issues are similar, and are all linked with the corporate capitalist globalization of the world economy.
The rally snaked it's way into the airport. We were all very quiet at first. I've been pretty nervous to be in airports lately, and was pretty quiet too. Someone offered to trade me the banner he was holding for my sign, because he wanted to be able to "move real quick" just in case... The banner included the name "Lelo" and I asked what the meaning of the banner I was holding was... I was told about the cannery worker killed in the early '80's and the struggle that ensued and that was successful in the unionization of cannery workers...
We ended up inside the airport, and banners were hung on the stairwells and railings as the rally started. Cameras started rolling. Speakers from the unions and worker's rights and immigrant advocacy organizations showing solidarity with the deported and arrested airport workers were all inspiring and loud, pointing out that we are all immigrants by birthright, except for native peoples, that no human being is illegal, and that we can't allow this kind of treatment of workers who have worked for years for this Lufthansa subcontractor, and who don't pose any threat to national security to be victims of union-busting activity like this staged INS raid.
It was pointed out that there is a deliberate manipulation of immigrant workers by corporations that hope to have compliant workers. When there is any complaint made about wages or worker's rights, suddenly employers exploit the genuine fears and anger that Americans have about the events of 9-11 and blow the whistle like they never knew the status of these workers, using them for scapegoats, using racism and other tactics of economic terrorism. It was pointed out that many things we all enjoy and depend upon, are provided using the labor provided by immigrant workers. A statement was read from the families of those the INS arrested on April 18th, and here is the text of that statement, read by Sandra of the Latino Coalition, because those families fear for their safety to read it themselves...
"We always heard that this was the country of opportunities. We arrived here with many illusions and dreams to improve our life. We worked honestly and hard to make our dreams reality, and to help the development of this country with our daily work. As recognition of our arduous work, we received the betrayal of our employer. We feel we have been deceived by this country. But at the same time, we would like to thank the North American people for their help and solidarity. If you ask us what has been the most difficult thing for us in this experience, the answer will be easy-- the separation from our loved ones.
Imagine that one day your husband or wife was going to work and does not return home, disappears. And you do not know what happened to them. What would you say to your children, when they ask for their parents? Also, we realize, that you can have access to several material goods in this country. But this cannot be enjoyed while our families are separated. It is like living in gold cage--it is still oppression.
It is a strange coincidence, that the INS organized the raid just when people almost did not travel because of the events of September 11th. When already they did not need us, they threw us into the trash. In order to avoid this deep suffering of the separation of all families created by deportation, and to recognize in it's right dimension, the value of the work of the immigrant workers, we demand general amnesty for all. Thanks Brothers and Sisters for your solidarity, and long live the worker's struggle!"
Here's the press release released by Jobs with Justice:
PROTEST AT SEATAC AIRPORT TO DEMAND FAIR LABOR PRACTICES FOR IMMIGRANT WORKERS AND AN END TO RACIST SCAPEGOATING IN THE NAME OF "NATIONAL SECURITY"
Hundreds of community and union activists plan to descend on a busy SeaTac Aiport on Saturday morning to express concern for the outrageous anti-worker and immigrant conduct of a port employer. A coalition of labor unions, workers' rights and immigrant advocacy organizations will hold a rally and press conference to demand standards of corporate responsibility for airport employers. The group will also protest INS and airport employer abuses of immigrant workers at SeaTac Airport and iarports nationwide under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act's "Operation Tarmac"
Labor Unions and immgrants & workers rights organizations were outraged by an April 18th 2002 INS (Immigration Naturalization Service) raid in which 16 union members were arrested at the LSG Sky Chef company facilities - a site located more than a mile from the SeaTac Airport and an employer currently engaged in national union contract negotiations.
Sponsoring organizations oppose airport employers' efforts to use the INS and excuses of "national security" to intimidate union members engaged in collective bargaining. LSG Sky Chef workers make airplane meals, which are subject to an independent and thorough security check. Neither the INS nor Sky Chef claim that the workers had posed any security threat. Sky Chef is a subsidiary of Lufthansa.
Latino community advocates discovered that LSG Sky Chef management collaborated with the INS to host the raid. Union members reported that LSG Sky CHef requested employees report to their shift an hour early to attend a company meeting to discuss problems associated with their uniforms. INS agents conducted this meeting, dressed in company uniforms and posing as LSG Sky Chef management. Employees attending this meeting were promised extra pay but then arrested and detained.
All of the arrested union members were Latino or Asian, and all had worked up to 10 years for LSG Sky Chef. Two detainees were released and twelve signed "voluntary" deportation papers under pressure by INS officials. Two are currently in the process of being deported.
Labor unions, workers rights, and immigrants rights organizations are concerned that immigration raids terrorize and destroy immigrant families, feed racist and anti-immigrant hysteria, hurt hard-working members of our communities, and fail to make air travel safer.
The rally and press conference is sponsored by Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance - Puget Sound, Washington State Jobs with Justice, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance - Seattle, Coalition for General Amnesty and Social Justice, United Food and Commercial Workers 1001, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19, Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, Teamsters 763, Out Front Labor Coalition/Pride At Work, LELO, Lutheran-Public Policy of Washington State, State Representative Velma Veloria (11th), Casa Latina, State Senator Adam Kline (37th), American Friends Service Committee, State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (37th), Refuse & Resist - Seattle, Hate Free Zone Campaign of Washington, Washington Alliance for Immigrant & Refugee Justice, Committee for General Amnesty and Justice, Not In Our Name Project - Seattle.
phone: (206) 441-4969
address: Jobs with Justice, POB 9662, Seattle, WA 98109
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