By Sahid Fawaz
Union members in New York are standing up to federal authorities targeting immigrants.
“Worried about federal immigration policies, a New York labor organization is taking steps to protect its own.
Across Long Island and throughout the city, some 120,000 Teamsters are getting prepped to become a “sanctuary union.”
In 27 shops, business agents, supervisors and front-line workers are getting schooled on their rights under U.S. law — and when and how to challenge federal immigration agents who show up to search their work sites.
The training is complex and technical — hinging on specific types of warrants and the definition of a raid.
But in fundamental labor terms, it follows one simple rule: Union solidarity first, immigration status second.
The Teamsters’ decision to openly challenge immigration enforcement under President Trump is rooted in the loss of one of its own members.
On Aug. 24, Teamster Eber Garcia Vasquez, 54, a married father of three U.S.-born children, was detained by immigration agents when he showed up for a routine annual appointment.
Shipped first to a Bergen County jail in New Jersey, then to Louisiana, Garcia was whisked back to his home country of Guatemala roughly 10 days later — despite a clean criminal record and two pending green card applications for him, one from his U.S. citizen wife and another from his son.
Furious Teamsters picketed outside 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan, demanding Garcia be returned home. “We were all appalled at what happened to Eber,” Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda told the Daily News at a sanctuary training meeting last week.
‘Eber is part of our family — we in the Teamsters rely on each other to get through the tough times,’ he said.
Many Teamsters are white, blue-collar men — a demographic that in some unions skewed toward Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
But the organization — which covers a variety of fields, including airlines, truckers, dairy farmers and more — also has a sizable share of immigrant workers, roughly a third, 40,000.
After what happened to Garcia — one of many recent forced deportations — worry ran through Teamster shops, Miranda said. ‘We saw and felt that concern, and we are responding to it. And that includes all our members, from all backgrounds. When we’re out on strike, we’re all the same on the picket line — what matters is that you’re a Teamster, and fighting with us.’
At a Wednesday class, funded by the Consortium for Worker Education, Mike Spinelli of Local 553 listened carefully as trainer Luba Cortés walked everyone through the difference between an administrative warrant and a judicial one.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents often present a document that says ‘warrant’ on it — but that doesn’t mean that it’s a judicial warrant, Cortés warned.
Under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, only a judicial warrant allows authorities to search a home or business or make an arrest.
‘A judicial warrant will be signed by a judge and will have the name of a state or federal court at the top,’ says the training guide handed out by Cortés. ‘An administrative warrant will be signed by an ICE supervisor — and that does not allow ICE entry.’
Spinelli paid particular attention because many of his members — immigrants who work at a Long Island dairy farm — were profoundly shaken when federal agents raided nearly 100 7-Eleven stores last month in a search for undocumented workers.
‘We deliver all the dairy to all the 7-Eleven stores in the city — you can imagine how scared some of these guys are,’ he said. ‘It’s a scary time in general, and we’re hoping this can help the workers feel prepared and help protect them — and also so employers know they don’t have to just roll over.’
A key part of the Teamsters training is how to bargain future contracts that contain clauses to force employers to follow proper procedures before granting federal authorities access to a work site.
Many times employers are as rattled as workers when a raid occurs — or even when feds come politely knocking, Cortés said.”
For the rest of the story, visit the New York Daily News here.