Monday, April 10, 2006

AT THE RALLY

Byron York at "The Corner" tells us:

I spent some time today at the pro-illegal immigrant rally on the Mall. It was big. There were a lot -- a lot -- of people there, perhaps as many as at the big antiwar rally on the Mall in January 2003. Being there, and watching the other rallies around the country, it seemed clear that organizers want to send the message that there are a lot of illegal immigrants, more than you may know. Perhaps they believe that such a show of force will impress many Americans. On the other hand, it might just alarm them.

Another unmissable aspect of the rally was the heavy labor union presence. There were lots of signs for the Service Employees International Union, the Laborers Union, UNITE Here, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The various coalitions listed as organizers of the event, like the National Capital Immigration Coalition, appeared to have a lot of union involvement. At the rally, I ran into Harold Meyerson, the liberal, pro-union writer and columnist, and asked him why organized labor was so active in this cause, given many American workers' fear that the presence of illegal immigrants drives down wages. "During the mid- and late 1990s, the unions that were actually still organizing people were realizing that increasingly they were organizing immigrants, many of them illegal, many of them undocumented," Meyerson told me:

And it forced a reassessment on the part of the labor movement of their historic opposition to illegal immigration. Led by UNITE, the clothing workers, the hotel workers, SEIU, which is organizing janitors -- all of those groups were predominantly immigrant groups. And they began representing them, and they came to the AFL-CIO and said we really need to reverse our position on immigration, and at their 1999 convention in Los Angeles they did. So this is something where the unions were affected by their shifting base, by the composition of their own memberships. That's what drove this, I think more than anything else -- and the realization that if they are going to continue to grow, given the sectors they've targeted, there are lots of immigrants in those sectors. So it's why Willie Sutton robbed banks. If there are new members to be had, that's where they are.


By the way, I looked for Brian Becker, the veteran organizer for the neo-Communist group International ANSWER, which has been involved in some big immigrant events. I didn't see him, and one rally staffer I spoke to seemed anxious to suggest that ANSWER had no role in this particular gathering. However, there were a lot of yellow "Amnistia -- Full Rights for All Immigrants!" signs, which were produced by what is called the ANSWER Coalition.

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