BCTD efforts help defeat immigration reform bill

Legislation did not protect American workers

Frustrated by the lack of protections for American workers — as well as other deficiencies — the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) mounted an aggressive nationwide campaign that helped defeat the comprehensive immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate June 7.

The Senate’s Democratic leadership, along with a few Republicans, had hoped to pass the controversial measure despite stiff opposition from segments of both parties and much of the U.S. population. Needing 60 votes to close off debate on the bill and bring it to a vote on the floor, supporters could muster only 45 “ayes.” Senate President Harry Reid (NV) then pulled the bill from consideration.

To help defeat the bill, BCTD conducted a massive grass-roots and lobbying effort involving its 12 international union affiliates and state and local building trade councils.

The BCTD objected strongly to the inclusion of a temporary worker program in the bill. The provision failed to include a firm and workable procedure for ensuring that prevailing wage protections would be fairly calculated and enforced. The bill also did not sufficiently address measures to secure the nation’s borders, implement a reliable employment verification system, and structure a pathway for undocumented workers to earn legalization.

As a member of the BCTD, the Boilermakers took part in efforts to dissuade senators from supporting the measure. International President Newton B. Jones prepared a personal phone message that went out to members in key states asking them to contact their senators and oppose the bill. Meanwhile, the government affairs department sent a “blast fax” to all local unions in the U.S. asking them to mobilize their members in opposition and also sent out notices to members who have provided the department with e-mail addresses. In addition, the International’s Web site carried a sample letter for members to use when writing to their senators.

“We can do better than this bill,” said IP Jones. “This issue is far too critical to the future of the building trades, and to our nation in general, to rush through legislation without addressing the serious concerns that we have identified.”

The Senate could take up the bill again, but political analysts say that is not likely before the end of the year.