This Sunday, Voces de la Frontera will start their "May Day Solidarity March" in an effort to end deportations, protect voter rights, and to fund public education. The picture on their mailer shows a Hispanic mother holding her child who is clinching onto an American flag, a touching image indeed.
Similarly, the AFL-CIO had also sent out a mailer. Instead of a warm and fuzzy image of a Hispanic mother holding her child, it featured a cold image of a clinched blue fist in the shape of Wisconsin. The mailer says, "May 1st marks an international day to recognize and to celebrate the working men and women of the world."
And the Occupy Movement posted their May Day invitation on Facebook calling for a general strike from work, school, shopping, banking, and trading. They noted that labor unions would not endorse a general strike due to "restrictive U.S. strike laws." But strike laws - or any law for that matter - does not apply to occupy protesters who in their words, "will take to the streets" on May 1st.
Different groups, different messages, assembling for different reasons sound a solidarity dream come true. But what does this have to do with Latinos? We hope to answer that question.
According to the May Day March website, May 1st marks a day of remembrance and celebration for labor and left-wing movements. In the early to mid 1800s, workplace abuses - including long workdays - began to weigh heavily on the minds of laborers.
At a convention in Chicago in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions declared eight hours to be a legal working day in the United States. On May 1st, 1886, socialist groups partnering with anarchists in Chicago launched the first May Day March. More than 300,000 workers and 13,000 businesses across the country went on strike. Three years later, the International Congress officially recognized May Day as a holiday commemorating the struggles of the labor movement.
Of all the major ethnic groups in the country, Latinos are the least likely to join a labor union. According to the United States Department of Labor, only 9.7% of Hispanics belong to unions. With Latinos, unions are below their recruitment quota due to the difficulties of illegal immigration. Before the 1990s, big labor saw illegal immigration as a major thorn in their side. The higher the national influx of immigration - or so they reasoned - the more their membership seemed to flounder. This created some resentment in the ranks.
Union membership not only saw immigrant labor driving down the value of their wages, but viewed immigrants as stealing the jobs of red-blooded Americans. Subsequently, union leadership supported bills that either restricted the flow of illegal immigration or enforced strict policies against undocumented workers.
In the early 1990s, however, unions changed their tune. The AFL-CIO began to "champion" the rights of undocumented immigrants and pushed for legislation proposing to legalize the whole lot of them. What changed? Taking a hardline stance to undocumented immigrants was akin to pissing in the wind. No legislation attempting to curb illegal immigration ever worked because the forces of supply and demand were too crafty and too powerful for Congress.
In 1995, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney tapped Linda Chavez-Thompson to be his Executive Vice-President. Sweeney chose a Mexican-American to be a bridge between them and the immigrant community. For what reason? Chavez-Thompson told the New York Times that the AFL-CIO's shift in immigration policy was a "strategic move to make immigrants more enthusiastic about joining unions."
What?? So, what happens when labor's strategic move of encouraging immigrants to join their ranks fails? Will the AFL-CIO turn their backs on immigrants and revert to their pre-90s immigration policy?
The bottom line is that unions don't care about immigrants, and labor statistics show that immigrants don't care too much for unions either. So why is Voces de la Frontera trying to promote the marriage between them?
It's been our contention that Voces de la Izquierda is a hyper-partisan outfit that routinely puts liberalism before the Hispanic community. A few examples will suffice.
Voces sternly opposes Voter ID and has filed a lawsuit against the state's new law, but polls show the Hispanic community overwhelmingly supports Voter ID.
Voces also opposes School Choice - a school voucher program that helps poor families put their kids in private schools. Voces has protested at legislative hearings over the expansion of school choice, yet polls consistently show that most Latinos support the program.
Voces also supports and has launched campaigns with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community [page 9]. As a result, Dr. A.P. Szews - President of St. Gregory's VII Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith - asked Archbishop Jerome Listecki to halt contributions made by a number of Archdiocesan parishes to Voces de la Frontera. Polls show that most Hispanics - especially foreign-born immigrants - oppose gay marriage.
Voces has also staged protests, rallies, and marches on behalf of labor unions despite only 9% of Latinos joining unions. The relationship between Latinos and unions is tenuous; what will Voces do if big labor reverses their support for pro-immigration policies?
Before you march in a May Day Parade, make sure you know why you're marching. The folks who are marching next to you may not share your values; and that goes for Voces de la Izquierda.