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Unions Join Forces On Immigration

Two of the country's major labor union coalitions – the AFL-CIO and Change To Win have united to advocate for a major overhaul in immigration legislation which would help President Obama when he revisits the contentious issue this year.

Both groups endorse allowing illegal immigrants already in the country legal status and push against any new program for employers to bring in temporary workers.

"The labor movement will work together to make sure that the White House as well as Congress understand that we speak about immigration reform with one voice," AFL-CIO Chief John Sweeney told the New York Times.

"This morning John Sweeney and [Change To Win chief] Joe Hansen announced the important joint unity" which will provide a "framework for immigration reform," Ester Lopez of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) added on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.

She explained that the "essential elements" of the framework includes a commission to access the flow of workers based on labor market shortages, a call for a worker verification system that protects workers, proposes the adjustment of status legalization of the 11 million undocumented workers and calls for an improvement but no expansion of temporary work force.

Ana Avendano, the Director Immigrant Worker Program of the AFL-CIO, said that "unity" between the groups is the key to legislative change.

She said "we have found in the past that division has not helped any of us" and rather it has "fueled immigrant hatred."

"Today is a brand new day," Avendano added.

She also touted Mr. Obama's prior experience as a community organizer and said she feels Mr. Obama will work with the unions rather than "against" as she said former President George W. Bush did.

Change To Win is a coalition of seven major unions and represents approximately six million workers. A mission statement on immigration from the union states that, "the fight for fair treatment and legal protection for immigrant workers in this country is inextricably linked to the fight for better wages, benefits, and working conditions for all workers. We will not allow workers to be pitted one against the other because of their national origin. Everything labor has ever won came by building a grassroots movement and strong community alliances."

Meanwhile the AFL-CIO claims to represent eleven million workers made up from fifty-six organizations. The union's immigration policy states that while the group supports immigrant workers, "it is increasingly clear that if the United States is to have an immigration system that really works, it must be simultaneously orderly, responsible and fair."

"The current system leaves unpunished unscrupulous employers who exploit undocumented workers and retaliate against them when they join with other workers to assert their rights, thus denying labor rights for all workers," the policy reads.

The White House announced last week that Mr. Obama would work to push an immigration bill through Congress in 2009 which would give a path for legalization of approximately 12 million people illegally in the U.S

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