Don't Mourn—Reorganize!

Unlikely Alliances With Activists and Immigrants Help Unions Stage a Comeback

But by all accounts, the most momentous change in organized labor's strategy has been to embrace immigrants. Only 15 years ago, the AFL-CIO helped draft laws to penalize employers for hiring undocumented workers; now the federation is supporting amnesty for the estimated 6 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. "Organized labor has come to understand that immigrants are not taking away from the movement, but have the potential to add a great deal," says Maria Elena Durazo, president of Los Angeles's local 11 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE), which recently won a contract provision stating that an employee who is detained or deported by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for up to a year may return with full seniority to a job.

This new understanding is also beginning to extend to workers overseas. When the aerospace company Ametek announced that it will move 74 jobs from Wilmington, Massachusetts, to Reynosa, Mexico, later this summer, local 201 of the IUE responded by bringing a leader of the Mexican trade union movement to speak to the workers in Wilmington. "There wasn't an ounce of hostility," says local president Jeff Crosby. "It's not the Mexican workers taking those jobs; it's the company."

So, will the workers of the world unite at last? "It's one thing if your company is losing money or closing and you get laid off," says Crosby. "It's another if they're making billions of dollars and looking for cheap labor where people can't organize unions. That just pisses you off and makes you want to fight back together."

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