An alliance of labor, religious, and community organizations gathered in New York to demand justice for immigrant workers, especially those hard hit after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The coalition is being led by New York's biggest private sector labor union, the Service Employees International Union, and is calling for new legislation on a particularly symbolic day.
Celebrating the 11th anniversary of the U.N. international convention for the basic human rights of migrant workers, one of New York City's most powerful labor unions called for the legalization of immigrant workers in the aftermath of the World Trade Center tragedy.
Service Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer Hector Figueroa says the fabric of the United States is made stronger by the daily labor of immigrant workers. He says he hopes Americans realize their contribution to this country. "We are here to again say that the attack on September 11 was an attack on all workers in America. More than 80 countries suffered losses in the Trade Center. More than just American citizens lost lives in the Trade Center. We had both documented and undocumented workers who were lost, in our union alone, we lost 24 members, one of whom we have found," he says.
The union and the other members of the alliance are asking for the legalization of all immigrant workers and family members directly affected by the September 11 attacks. They also are requesting that immigrant workers who were in the process of applying for legal status before the attacks be granted documentation.
The alliance says more flexibility in the eligibility for unemployment and other benefits is needed, and the end of discrimination against immigrant workers is essential.
Immigrant worker Mariola Jarkoska came to the United States from Poland 13 years ago. She says her dream of buying a house collapsed with the collapse of the World Trade Center, but she is grateful for the support she has received from her union since the terrorist attacks. "I used to work in 7 World Trade Center, 12 years, and of course the building collapsed and I lost my job. Now I am legal, but some of us are still illegal, they need help, especially in this situation," she says.
The alliance says it wants to alleviate the fears and concerns of millions of undocumented immigrants throughout the country. It is starting with New York and says it hopes Americans will take action so this country may be truly united.