National labor leaders bringing message of unity to the border

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AFL-CIO officials want to show solidarity amid politics of 'division and hate' across the country

Chihuahuita Park in South El Paso. (Border Report photo)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — More than a dozen national union leaders will be in El Paso this week, bringing a message of unity, support for immigrant working families and seeking knowledge about the labor situation on the border.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre are spearheading a delegation that includes leaders of the American Federation of Teachers, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, United Mine Workers of America and others.

“The labor movement is traveling to the border because immigration is a workplace issue. We’re here to demand an end to the politics of division and hate that are fueling economic inequality and violence,” Shuler said. The AFL-CIO represents 12.7 million workers affiliated to more than 50 organizations.

Delegation members will listen to local workers, as well as survivors and family members of the victims of the Aug. 3 mass shooting at the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall. “We will hear directly from affected workers and families in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez and recommit to winning justice through working-class solidarity that knows no boundaries,” Shuler said.

El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz will welcome the delegation Tuesday night at La Mujer Obrera, 2000 Texas Ave. The bishop will briefly touch on the mass shooting, his office said. Local labor groups will accompany the visitors to the massacre site at 8:30 p.m.

On Wednesday morning, the delegation will be at the Solidarity Without Borders rally at Chihuahuita Park, 400 Charles Road, where local groups will call for an end to “the politics of hate.”

Chihuahuita Park in South El Paso. (Border Report photo)

“It’s about fact-finding, listening and taking back the stories of local workers so that we are able to tell our union members how it’s important not to let issues like immigration reform and white supremacy get in the way of working people who are trying to organize for a better life,” said Emmelle Israel, spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO.

Union leaders will utilize that knowledge to build coalitions and reinforce “things we have committed to in the past, such as an immigration system with a pathway to citizenship and changes so that immigrant workers aren’t exploited by the same employers who are reaping profits off the backs of American workers as well,” Israel said.

Lorena Andrade, executive director of La Mujer Obrera, an El Paso women’s and labor rights community organization, said she welcomes the labor unions reaching out to border workers.

“Most of the workers we come in contact with here in El Paso are immigrants and they deserve to be heard,” Andrade said. “It’s important that their voice be heard not only by the government but by labor unions because that will make their voice that much stronger,” she said.

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