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Hullabaloo


Friday, June 18, 2010

 
Solidarity

by digby


A truly wonderful speech from Richard Trumka today, showing solidarity with all workers, even the undocumented. It's an inspiring sea change for the unions, which have long been ambivalent at best and hostile at worst to immigration, and one which shows how this progressive coalition is developing into a true movement based on shared values.

Here's just one short excerpt. You can read the whole transcript here:

We need a new national economic strategy for a global economy.

At the heart of our strategy must be a workforce with world class skills and world class rights and trade policies that serve the interests of the American people. But today I also want to talk to you about what may seem like a strange subject--immigration--because it is patently clear that we cannot talk about our national workforce strategy unless we face head-on our own contradictions, hypocrisy and history on immigration.

The truth is that in a dynamic global economy in the 21st century, we simply cannot afford to have millions of hard-working people without legal protections, without meaningful access to higher education, shut off from the high-wage, high-productivity economy. It is just too costly to waste all that talent and strength and drive.

But immigration reform is not just an economic issue. The way we as a nation treat the immigrants among us is about more than economic strategy—it is about who we are as a nation.

I grew up in a small town in Southwestern Pennsylvania, not that far from here. The immigrant path led from the coalmines to Pittsburgh to Cleveland.

And if you look around Cleveland at the ethnic clubs and the churches, you see a city that immigrants built--Hungarians and Poles, Irish and Italians, Serbs and Croats and Jews, as well as African Americans. Cleveland is a city where the traditions of the places we came from are the very foundation of our community.

It was not easy when my family came to this country. My parents fled poverty and war from different corners of Europe. When I was a kid, there was an ugly name for every one of us in all twelve languages spoken in Nemacolin, PA—wop and hunkie and polack and kike. We were the last hired and first fired, the people who did the hardest and most dangerous work, the people whose pay got shorted because we didn't know the language and were afraid to complain.

We got to the mines and the mills, and the people already there said we were taking their jobs, ruining their country. Yet in the end the immigrants of my parents' and grandparents' generation prevailed, and built America. This is the history of my family, and this is the story of Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Detroit and Chicago and Baltimore and a thousand cities and towns across America.

And yet today I hear from working people who should know better, some in my own family – that those immigrants are taking our jobs, ruining our country. Haven't we been here before?

When I hear that kind of talk, I want to say, did an immigrant move your plant overseas? Did an immigrant take away your pension? Or cut your health care? Did an immigrant destroy American workers' right to organize? Or crash the financial system? Did immigrant workers write the trade laws that have done so much harm to Ohio?

My friends, we are most of us the children of immigrants.

But there was no labor movement in America until workers learned to look at each other and see not immigrants and native born, not white and black, not different last names, but our common fate as workers.

The labor movement believes that our goal as a nation should be a future of shared prosperity – not stubborn unemployment and a lost generation. That our economic strategy must bring us together instead of driving us apart. Our strategy must help us be the kind of country we want our children to thrive in—the country our history tells us we can be. The home of the American Dream.

So exactly what is the American Dream? Some will tell you the American Dream is the idea that in America anyone can become rich. And the fact that the upper reaches of our society are relatively open is a good thing about our country—but it is not the American Dream.

The American Dream is not that a few of us will get to be rich, but that all of us will have a fair portion of the good things in life. Time to be with our families. The chance for our children to get an education and the opportunity to make their own way in the world. Laws that protect us, not oppress us.

The American labor movement is all about the pursuit and the defense of this idea of America. And we have learned through our history that it is only when working people stand together—in the workplace and at the polling place—that the American Dream is secure.



Nice.

.

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