Behind the Smoke: What Immigration Reform Really Means

Mike Hall

As commonsense immigration reform moves through the U.S. Senate, people and groups on the losing side of the debate are making outrageous claims in bogus studies and TV commercials. Let’s take a minute and revisit some of the facts about immigration reform.

Immigration reform with a path to citizenship and workplace rights doesn’t just benefit aspiring citizens and their families. It's good for all workers. Earlier this year, we published a 10-point checklist showing how all workers will benefit from fixing our broken immigration system. Here are just a few. 

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Occupational Health Watch: Asthma on the Job

Barbara Materna, PhD

Roughly 40% of California’s adults with asthma, or an estimated 974,000 people, have asthma that has been caused or aggravated by their work.  Nearly two-thirds of these workers did not have asthma until it was caused by conditions or substances at a job.

This is a key finding from a new asthma tracking report that includes a chapter devoted to work-related asthma.  The California Department of Public Health has just released, “Asthma in California: A Surveillance Report.”  OHB’s Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program (WRAPP) analyzed data from a statewide survey conducted between 2006 and 2009 to estimate the extent of work-related asthma among Californians for the report.

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Working for Peanuts at Nation’s Ballparks, Concessions Sellers Speak Up

Cynthia McCabe

The average price of a ticket to watch the San Francisco Giants went up 20 percent in the last three seasons. Team revenues spiked 14 percent. Even beer prices increased 13 percent. And concessions stand workers’ wages? Surely they went up as owners raked in more profits, right?

Strike 1.

The wages of the folks selling the peanuts and Cracker Jacks at AT&T Park haven’t been raised a penny since the start of the 2010 baseball season. Their employer, food and beverage subcontractor Centerplate, refuses to negotiate a fair contract that includes adequate health care benefits. So last week, the workers of UNITE HERE Local 2 called a strike, which kicked off at the May 25 Giants-Rockies game and will occur four more days during the summer if necessary.

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Report: Enterprise Zones Hide Tax Credit Information from Public

 on Tuesday revealed that strip club owners are among the recipients of taxpayer dollars under the state’s broken enterprise zone program. Last night, in part two of the exposé, KCRA revealed another major flaw of the EZ program: it’s shrouded in secrecy, giving the public no opportunity to see where their tax dollars are going, or whether the program is creating any jobs for the annual $750 million investment we’re making.

According to the KCRA report: “Tax credits are available to businesses in 40 enterprise zones across California. But despite the money coming from taxpayer dollars, the state won’t reveal online who receives it. In California’s fragile economy, every dollar counts. But a KCRA 3 investigation has revealed that hundreds of thousands of tax dollars are supporting strip clubs.”

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Taxpayer Dollars to Strip Clubs, Courtesy of the Broken Enterprise Zone Program

Steve Smith

We've known for years that the state’s enterprise zone (EZ) program is a mess of wasteful spending that does nothing to create new jobs. But even I was surprised when we uncovered through a recent Public Records Act request that the EZ tax breaks are going into the pockets of strip club owners.

A stunning investigative report by KCRA News last night revealed that a Sacramento-area strip club has raked in tens of thousands in EZ tax credits.

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KQED Exposes Widespread Abuse and Retaliation Against Immigrant Workers

Rebecca Band

“Employers harass and intimidate immigrant workers at legislative hearing on employers who harass and intimidate immigrant workers”

Sounds like a headline from a satire website, but in fact, this is precisely what happened at a recent committee hearing on AB 263 (Hernandez). The bill, backed by the California Labor Federation and Teamsters Joint Council 7, would protect immigrant workers who speak up for fair wages and working conditions from abuse, retaliation and threats of deportation – a practice that’s become far too common in California. So common, in fact, that it was on full display inside the AB 263 hearing, where immigrant workers who came to testify about the harassment and retaliation they see and experience at work were intimidated by their employer’s high-priced lawyers.

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Musicians Protest “Captain America” Movie Set to Denounce Marvel’s Offshoring of Film Score Work

Linda Rapka

More than 30 members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) protested in Cleveland May 23 outside a location shoot for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Musicians are outraged over Marvel Entertainment's outsourcing of musical score work to Europe while it pockets millions of taxpayer dollars from state and federal tax credits meant to keep work in the United States.

Musicians from Cleveland Local 4, Los Angeles Local 47 and New York Local 802 along with fellow union members from area AFL-CIO, CLC, UNITE-HERE! and SEIU locals showed up clad in black T-shirts adorned with large white-stencils reading “Music Jobs Justice Crew.” They distributed leaflets and donned picket signs in protest of Marvel's plans to outsource the “Captain America” sequel's musical score to London.

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Comprehensive Immigration Reform: It’s About Keeping Families Together

Jim Zamora

Teddy Vallejos has a personal stake in reforming America’s contradictory immigration laws.

While Vallejos, am SEIU 1000 Bargaining Unit 1 member, continues working for the Department of General Services in West Sacramento, her husband has been forced to return to his native Mexico where he will likely spend the next 8-10 years waiting for approval to legally join his wife in the United States unless the rules change.

Vallejos, whose husband had been living and working in California without proper documents when they married, says her experience with the immigration system has spurred her activism both in her workplace and on the immigration issue.

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My Story: Speaking Out For Safer Working Conditions For Warehouse Workers in Mira Loma

Miriam Garcia

I have worked for other staffing agencies at other warehouses and I have never experienced a job this bad. We all have families to support so we are taking a risk by speaking out, but it is something that we have to do. I am not an animal. I treat everyone with respect, but we do not receive that respect in return.

When I look around most of the labels say “Walmart.” Walmart is the biggest client by far. We move a lot of suitcases that end up inside Walmart stores. I know that Walmart is the largest company in the world. We are using our bodies – our hands, arms, back and necks – to move its goods, but we are treated like animals. We have to speak up. We have to do something. 

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Pulaski in OC Register: Don’t Let Walmart & Other Big Chains Push Health Care Costs Onto Taxpayers

Rebecca Band

The Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) is based on the concept of shared responsibility – individuals, employers and the government are all supposed to pay their fair share. But Walmart found a loophole in the ACA big enough to drive a truck through; by keep workers’ wages and hours so low that they quality for Medi-Cal, the employer can avoid their responsibility altogether, and we the taxpayers end up footing the bill. California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski detailed this “Walmart Loophole” in today’s Orange County Register.

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