"We have to first teach our kids," counseled Clifford Hall, Local 151. In Cicero, Illinois co-workers and the communities rallied against an invasion by the KKK, he reported. "The whole community got together and said, ‘stop this racist stuff!’"
Name-calling hurts, said Ray Pompano, Local 243; "words cut like a knife."
Racism was a cover for welfare reform, Pompano pointed out. As a result of the destruction of the social safety net, half of minority children are born in poverty, and a quarter of all kids are poor. Pompano decried California’s anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 and anti-immigrant Proposition 187.
UE locals face a challenge of educating members to overcome division and hatred, said Joe Chavez, District 10, pointing out how companies hire workers of different nationalities to incite disunity.
When Local 683 went into negotiations with OEM Plastics in Erie, Pa., workers wore union buttons in each of their seven languages, noted Betsy Potter, Local 618. "So when they went out to confront they boss, they each had a button that read exactly what they meant, and they knew what it said."
Potter endorsed the suggestion of Merle Krossland, Local 625, that the word "substantial" be deleted from the resolution’s call that there be "translation of contracts, leaflets, bulletins and other materials into the languages of UE members where there are substantial numbers of members who cannot speak or read English." Krossland stated, "If you have one person in your shop who has no understanding of the contract, leaflets or bulletins that we put out, I believe they have the right to know and be educated on our stand like anyone else."
Delegates accepted the amendment unanimously.
Deb Herman, Local 896, warned that the movement for "English-only" laws encourages prejudice against immigrants.
Delegates also adopted the resolution "In Support of Immigrant Workers," with an amendment proposed from the floor by Mona Parillo, Local 1094, that speaks to the protection of immigrant workers from sweatshops.
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