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Rep. Luiz Gutierrez makes a point as UAW President Bob King looks on. Video. Photo by Rick Reinhard.
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez brought humor, high energy, gratitude and inspiring words for delegates to the 2011 UAW National Community Action Program (CAP) Conference.
The 4th District Illinois congressman on Wednesday explained how immigration issues run parallel to the labor movement and are directly connected to civil, human and workers’ rights.
“I’m so thankful for the UAW and their support for the Voting Rights Act because it afforded me the opportunity to serve in the United States Congress,” he said. “I understand the plight of working people. I vote because my history is the story of immigrants who dreamed of a better life for their children.”
According to Gutierrez, there are 12 million undocumented workers in America, and he acknowledged that their low wages have a negative impact on all U.S. workers.
A champion of the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act, Gutierrez said the legislation would have granted amnesty to thousands of undocumented workers. The legislation was passed by the House and voted down in the Senate.
Gutierrez argued that instead of fighting immigration, it should be embraced to empower undocumented workers.
“There are those who want to preach hatred and bigotry and turn us against one another. Yes, their wages undercut the rest of America,” said Gutierrez. “There are business interests who want to keep it just like that. I say we take those workers and mobilize them. We legalize them – and we organize them.”
A longtime advocate of workers’ rights who has walked many picket lines, Gutierrez has supported labor issues 100 percent of the time. He urged all union members to embrace Latino communities and endorse the DREAM Act because organizing and empowering them will help grow the labor movement and give even more working people a voice in the workplace.
“My responsibility is to make sure that I stand up and fight for those who don’t have power or a voice,” said Gutierrez. “The way we keep this country great is that we open the platform to new vitality, new talent and new creativity.”
Gwynne Marie Cobb