<< Back

On Eve of May Day, California Labor Federation Urges Action to Protect Immigrant Communities and Workers Hit Hard by COVID-19 Crisis

April 30, 2020
Contact: Steve Smith 510-326-4644

In Letter to Governor and Legislative Leaders, Unions Demand Support for Immigrant Workers, Including New Recall and Retention Procedures to Guarantee Return to Work

OAKLAND – The California Labor Federation issued a letter to Gov. Newsom and legislative leaders today to urge the state to address the growing desperation immigrant families across California are facing as a result of job loss and being cut out of federal stimulus.

The demands are part of an International Workers’ Day (May Day) call by unions across California for immediate action to support immigrant families, many of whom are frontline workers, who are struggling to survive as the COVID-19 crisis continues. These demands include new recall and retention procedures that would allow immigrant workers, regardless of immigration status, to get back on the job quickly once the state deems it is safe for certain parts of the economy to re-open.

“California has consistently taken the lead on protecting and expanding the rights of its undocumented immigrant population,” Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski writes in the letter, signed by nearly 40 unions and labor groups across California. “Where the federal administration has fallen short or worse, taken deliberate actions to disenfranchise this vulnerable community, California has stepped in to protect all its residents.”

The letter includes four recommendations unions are urging state leaders to adopt:

  1.  Protect workers with fair layoff, recall and retention procedures to guarantee jobs to displaced workers when the crisis subsides and allows those workers to resume work without triggering new work reauthorization processes.
  2.  Allocate additional resources to the Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants Project for all immigrants who are unable to access federal relief and provide additional support to those unable to work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether they have been laid off, had their hours reduced, are ordered to shelter-in-place, or because they are taking care of a child whose school or childcare has closed because of the pandemic.
  3.  Include families who file their taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number in the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), including the Young Child Tax Credit- and make it retroactive to 2019.  Doing so would put urgently needed cash in the pockets of undocumented families who will be left out of federal relief checks.
  4. Extend Medi-Cal for all low-income Californians, regardless of immigration status.

Worker advocates commend Gov. Newsom for recent actions to start moving resources into the hands of immigrant workers who need it desperately. But more needs to be done.

“We applaud governor Newsom’s announcement of a $125 million relief fund for workers and their families left out of federal stimulus aid and the state’s unemployment insurance system is a welcomed first step to a much larger set of investments needed to ensure a Recovery for All. With more than one million California households including a worker who is undocumented, this early funding is just the beginning of what’s needed to help all families put food on the table now and begin the hard work ahead to rebuild what the virus has destroyed,” said SEIU-USWW President David Huerta. “As the White House continues to use this pandemic to flame anti-immigrant sentiment, Governor Newsom leadership recognizes the unequal impact of the pandemic on communities who were already struggling.  We look forward to continuing to work with governor Newsom, for additional relief for immigrant workers who’ve lost their jobs or had their hours cut, including immigrant families in the California Earned Income Tax Credit and Young Child Tax Credits and making that relief available immediately, and securing the right to health care for every Californian regardless of immigration status.”

The recall and retention procedures are especially important to immigrant workers who have been laid off during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The right to recall is very important for me because I need my job,” said Antonio* (last name not used to protect his privacy), a hotel worker organizing with Unite Here Local 11. “I take care of my mother who has an aggressive type of diabetes and I have to pay for her medications. I also have 7 siblings who live in Mexico and one is with me here and I help them all. I don’t want to go back to another job and start from zero. I’m very proud of the work that I do for the guests and I love my coworkers. I feel very honored to work alongside them and I want to continue doing what I love.”

Tomorrow, on International Workers’ Day, union members across the state will engage lawmakers and others with a digital campaign to get the message out to support workers like Antonio, who are struggling to survive.


The California Labor Federation is made up of more than 1,200 unions, representing 2.1 million union members in manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, public sector, health care, entertainment and other industries.

<< Back