Big Labor says it has big plans for recruiting into its ranks the millions of illegal immigrants affected by President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty action.
“I think we’ll see very positive changes” because of the action, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 President Tom Balanoff told the Associated Press. “One of them, I hope, is that more workers will come forward and want to organize.”
SEIU recently launched a website where illegal immigrants can learn how to take advantage of the Obama amnesty order. The website, iAmerica.org, also includes a voter registration widget, powered by Rock the Vote on its “Citizens” page, but stipulates,”If you are a U.S. citizen and over the age of 18 you have the right to have a say in how our country is governed. Register to vote and make your voice heard.”
According to the Associated Press, “Even if the immigrants aren’t citizens and cannot vote, they can help unions by paying dues and doing the heavy lifting needed around election time–knocking on doors, driving voters to the polls and making phone calls for pro-labor candidates.”
Other labor groups like the AFL-CIO are training organizers to recruit illegal immigrants; the United Food and Commercial Workers is planning workshops and enlisting churches and community groups to locate illegal workers.
Labor leaders hope enlisting illegal immigrants into their ranks will help boost lagging memberships. Between 2003 and 2013, union memberships plunged by over 1.2 million. As of 2013, just 11.3% of workers belonged to a union, reports the AP.
Despite unions’ campaigns to woo illegal immigrants, some say the task may prove more difficult, as immigrants remain wary of enlisting with a union publicly, given that Obama’s amnesty plan is temporary and a future president could reverse his executive order.