We are a sanctuary union

June 28, 2017

Teamsters Local 810 member Tim Goulet makes the case that union members can help to lead the fight to defend immigrant workers.

ONLY AN hour or so after I had heard that the Supreme Court had "partially reinstated" Trump's racist travel ban, I received some reassuring news: My union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 810 in New York City, had declared itself a "sanctuary union," becoming the first Teamsters local to do so.

The resolution was the culmination of a four-month campaign within the union to take decisive action in protecting its membership from the persistent threat of raids and deportations in the wake of Trump's election, and was stimulated by the growing ferment in cities, on college campuses and in workplaces around the country that began right after Election Day.

New York City is home to millions of immigrants, over half a million of them undocumented, who represent a significant and important sector of the workforce. Many of these immigrants are members of Teamsters Local 810.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials have declared New York to be a "sanctuary city," but, as Julian Guerrero wrote recently, revelations of the New York Police Department cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provides little comfort that the city's political class and its institutions will provide the necessary protection.

Members of Teamsters Local 804 demonstrate in New York City
Members of Teamsters Local 804 demonstrate in New York City (Teamsters Local 804 | Facebook)

Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut funding to sanctuary cities like New York, triple the number of ICE agents and terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has protected over 700,000 immigrants who arrived in the U.S as children from deportation.

With his travel ban, he is also attempting to restrict the flow of immigrants based on their nationality and religion. This scapegoating of oppressed groups is a means to fragment and divide our side against itself. It can only be resisted by closing ranks in solidarity and fighting back.

Unions have a crucial role to play in this regard. They can leverage a level of social power that many other types of organizations cannot, due to their position in the workplace.

As Rosanna Aran of the Laundry Workers Center in New Jersey told Labor Notes, "Labor unions often have a lot of political leverage with political leaders that a lot of times immigrant organizations don't have. Institutions that have those kinds of relationships and access can push elected leaders to step up."

Unions can hold their feet to the fire by threatening collective action in the workplace, and in the community.

The "sanctuary union" resolution below was inspired by similar resolutions by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) in California and the National Education Association (NEA) in Washington D.C.

The resolution was proposed in a general membership meeting in front of a large group of truck drivers and building mechanics--not the sort of crowd you normally associate with radicalism.

Yet the resolution, along with an argument tying together the attack on immigrants with possible national right-to-work legislation and the rest of Trump's multi-front offensive on the working class, resonated with the membership, in a way that I don't think was possible only a couple of years ago.

The resolution commits Local 810 to not cooperating with federal agents in the prosecution or attempted deportation of members. It also means we will mobilize our forces to protest raids by ICE and resist employer collaboration, which is nothing but a clear-cut method of union-busting. The resolution also declares support for the continuation and strengthening of the DACA and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) programs for immigrants.

Moving forward, members are planning to present the "Sanctuary Resolution" to other Teamsters locals, and next month, it will be taken to Teamsters Joint Council 16 in New York City for possible ratification.

It should be clear that none of this will come without struggle, not only with government agents and employers, but within our unions themselves. Pressure will need to be applied, and political debates have to be had out. But, for now, we have scored a victory.

IBT Local 810 Sanctuary Union Resolution

Local 810 is a New York City based Teamster's local representing thousands of workers throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Many of our members are immigrants, and we will always be a union that fights for our members' rights beyond the workplace.

Whereas, Local 810 will continue to enthusiastically embrace its responsibility to represent all of its membership, regardless of the member's race, immigration status, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation and will not be impeded or intimidated from exercising its responsibilities, and

Whereas, due to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents that have been raiding and arresting immigrants on the flimsiest of pretexts, with no regard for how long they've lived in the U.S, how dependent their families are upon them, or the ties they harbor with their communities, and

Whereas, Local 810 is committed to ensuring that their Union is a safe and welcoming place for all its members and their families regardless of their immigration status, and

Whereas, many cities such as New York, have declared themselves Sanctuary Cities, and universities such as Columbia, Sanctuary Campuses, where officials have vowed not to collaborate to volunteer the immigration status of their residents, workers, or students, or to cooperate with ICE.

Therefore, be it resolved that:

IBT Local 810 declares itself a "Sanctuary Union," that will protect the rights and safety of all of its members and will do everything within its power to ensure the safety and security of its members regardless of one's immigration status,

Will not voluntarily cooperate with federal agents in the prosecution or attempted deportation of members of Local 810 of the International brotherhood of Teamsters;

Will not collect personal information from our members that may be used against them in terms of their immigration status;

Declares and mobilizes support for Sanctuary Cities and Sanctuary Campuses;

Commits to holding Know Your Rights trainings and sharing legal resources with our members;

Will commit to collectively bargaining new contract language that strengthens workplace protections for immigrant members;

Will continue to build alliances in the community with others engaged in similar work to protect communities and the undocumented, and participate in protests in response to ICE raids or employer collaboration for the sake of union-busting;

Supports the upholding and expansion of the DACA and DAPA programs for immigrants;

Be it further resolved:

IBT Local 810 stands in solidarity with all communities under attack, and understands that the time for unity is now, and that standing united with all workers, particularly the most vulnerable among us, will be key to beating back the attack on our unions and our standard of living in the years to come.

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