A Crossroads

Speech by  Christine Neumann-Ortiz, delivered on September 2nd at Milwaukee’s Labor Day rally:

“This Labor Day represents a crossroads for the labor movement, at a time when there is a greater concentration of money in fewer hands, and escalated attacks on labor rights, civil rights, and voting rights.  We are linking our struggles to change  a future that the corporate and financial elite have charted for us.

Today we are sending a message – that we will not be divided along lines of race or immigration status, public employee versus private employee, union versus non-union.

That we demand action from elected government to respond to the crisis of unemployment and low wages, and access to quality education and health care — not as a privilege but as a fundamental human right.

The fight for immigration reform is a fight about rights on the job.  It is about eliminating the threat of retaliation for reporting abuse, stolen wages, and dangerous working conditions.  It is about the right to organize with other workers to address these conditions.

The fight for immigration reform is also at a crossroads, and we need your help to win this fight.  We need to continue to put pressure on House Republican leadership to introduce a bill that provides legalization with a path to citizenship.  If a vote was taken now, it would pass by a majority, but it’s just not being introduced.

We are not fools.  Republican Party members must understand that they cannot get away with simply saying “I tried” and political posturing for the next election.  Nearly 75% of Latino voters voted for President Obama in the wake of passage of deferred action for immigrant youth that granted them legal status, due to community pressure.

If we don’t get Congressional action, then we demand executive administrative relief for 11 million – under an administration that has separated more families through deportation than any other.

Unlike congressional representatives, our movement is not cynically driven by a legislative or electoral agenda.  It is measured by an affirmation of our human dignity under inhumane laws.  And the majority of the American people stand with us.

There are those that wanted to declare that because of the attacks on labor unions, the labor movement was dead.  But today represents a new worker’s movement that is being forged by people from all walks of life – that recognizes that we must stand together in our vision for a new Wisconsin and a new country – a county that honors its mantra, by upholding and delivering justice for all.”

Christine Neumann-Ortiz is the executive director of Voces de la Frontera.