Ruben J. Garcia – Labor’s Approach to Immigration: How Does Law Matter?

 

Labor’s Approach to Immigration: How Does Law Matter?

Seminar to be held in ERC 115 at 2:00 pm.
While many U.S. and Canadian unions historically marginalized immigrant workers, by the early 1990s, key unions achieved success organizing immigrant workers and adopted more progressive immigration policies. North America’s major labor federations also made significant changes. The Canadian Labour Congress created a National Anti-Racism Task Force in 1994 to address, among other issues, the links between racism and Canadian immigration policies. In 2000, the AFL-CIO reversed its previous support for legislation that contributed to the discrimination and intimidation of immigrants. Then in 2003, a coalition of major U.S. unions, NGOs and community groups organized the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride to call attention to the rights of immigrants.

This paper argues that shifts in union immigration policies emerge not only out of demographic changes that generate the need to organize immigrant workers, but also reflect larger changes wrought by processes of economic integration. It also suggests that unions’ adoption of less draconian immigration policies provide new political arenas for transnational labor collaboration. A 1997 campaign conducted by the Teamsters, UFW, and Mexican labor activists to defend the rights of migrant farmworkers who had left their community in Mexico to work in the Washington apple industry provides one example. Another example is advocacy in favor of labor rights for undocumented workers by the AFL-CIO and affiliated unions in court cases. We believe these and other examples will show that transnational links and amicus advocacy led official federation policy on immigration reform. These examples show how social change occurs in large, diffuse organizations.

Ruben J. Garcia is Professor of Law at California Western School of Law in San Diego, where he has taught since 2003. He has held visiting appointments at the University of California, Davis School of Law and at the University of California, San Diego. Professor Garcia received an A.B. from Stanford University, a J.D. from UCLA School of Law, and an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin Law School.  His research and teaching focus on the ways that race, gender, immigration and globalization impact the law of work. Professor Garcia’s scholarly work has appeared in a number of publications, including the University of Chicago Legal Forum, Hastings Law Journal, Florida State Law Review, Florida Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law, the First Amendment Law Review, and the Journal of Gender, Race and Justice. He is currently finishing a book for New York University Press, titled Marginal Workers: How Legal Fault Lines Divide Workers and Leave Them Without Protection (2011).