May 2009: Rural Oregon’s Call: Justice for All!

Tomorrow is May 1st – known around the world as International Workers Day.  Hundreds of thousands are expected to take to the streets to demand respect for workers’ and immigrants’ rights.  (Join us in Salem or Portland!)  As immigrant and US-born workers join together in this broad-based movement for economic justice, "movement" on immigration reform is also happening at the federal level. 

At last night’s press conference, Obama reiterated that immigration reform is a priority.  “We can’t continue with a broken immigration system. It’s not good for anybody. It’s not good for American workers…”  He is expected to make a more substantial announcement in mid-May and to set up working groups later this summer.  Legislation will likely be introduced this fall. 

Our job in this moment is to be informed, vigilant, vocal and strategic.  ROP members across the state understand the basic premise that the exploitation and oppression of any particular group is a threat to the well-being of all.  As long as there is an "underclass" of undocumented workers, and immigrant guest workers whose legal status is tied to a single employer with no path to citizenship, all workers suffer from a downward pressure on wages and working conditions.  Racial, gender and economic justice are inextricably linked.

As the call for comprehensive immigration reform makes it back into the headlines, we need to help shape the policy we’ve been waiting for.  We must define and demand the reforms that we want – legalization for undocumented immigrants, family reunification, strong, equal protections for all workers, regardless of immigration status – and speak out against reforms that violate our basic values of democracy, fairness and human dignity – militarization of the border, and “guestworker” programs that exploit immigrants for cheap labor and violate their civil and labor rights.

The current economic crisis makes it all the more crucial that our nation reform its immigration system, and in a way that protects the rights of all workers.  This May, rural Oregon will stand united in our call: Justice for All.  Check out this month’s Kitchen Table Activism below to find out how.


MAY 2009  Kitchen Table Activism

WHAT IS THE ACTIVITY?  May 2009 will be a crucial month in the struggle for worker and immigrant rights.  This month’s KTA is designed as a roadmap for Human Dignity Groups to make sure that Oregon’s rural communities stay ahead of the curve, calling early, often and publicly for visionary and pragmatic pro-worker solutions to our nation’s broken economic and immigration systems.  When workers and immigrants throughout the country take to the streets on International Workers Day to call for economic justice for all, and when Obama speaks publicly in support of an overhaul of our nation’s immigration system (as he is expected to do in mid-May), your Human Dignity Group will be ready to take advantage of the strategic opportunities that these highly public and media noteworthy events provide, to shift the debate in support of dignity, justice and full labor protections for all workers, regardless of immigration status.

WHY THIS ACTIVITY?  Working families are hurting.  The economic crisis has revealed the need for a restructured economy – one that actually works for all working people – not against us.  And that means an end to an "underclass" of undocumented workers, too-oft exploited in a system that isn’t good for immigrants and isn’t good for the working class.  Obama may become our ally in implementing far-reaching changes to the immigration system, but, as he has said all along, he needs us to "make him do it."  And so do our other elected officials.  That means we must be more persistent, more vocal and more strategic about our vision for reform than coordinated anti-immigrant, anti-worker, and pro-corporate forces out there, who have historically out-called our reps on these issues 200 to 1.  It’s up to us.


1. Take to the Streets with ROP! 
Tomorrow is your chance to participate in the historic May Day rallies planned for Salem and Portland.  We know that this is a long drive for most rural human dignity leaders, but the weather is supposed to be beautiful at the capitol tomorrow!  Call ROP’s cell phone at 503-438-8638 to find out where we are and when.  Join us!

2. Have a Party!
  Choose someone from your Human Dignity Group to host a letter writing potluck party in advance of Obama’s announcement.  (Contact for tips on how to host a successful letter-writing potluck!)  At the party, discuss your group’s vision for immigration reform and write letters to Obama and our Oregon Congressional Delegation outlining that vision. Below are some sample Talking Points on the need for just and humane immigration reform that upholds the rights of all working people, as well as links to websites with more information.

3. Have Another Party!?  We don’t know yet whether Obama will make his announcement on immigration reform as a prime time speech, as part of a press conference, or in some other form.  And we probably won’t know the exact date and time until just few days ahead of time, if that.  So keep close watch, and ROP will let you know as soon as we have an update!  If it looks like there might be something televised, consider hosting an impromptu party to watch it together with members of your human dignity group.  Or gather together soon after the announcement.  Take the opportunity to have a group discussion – a real group think moment on what Obama says and how it fits (or not) with what your vision is for just and humane immigration reform.

4. Make Your Voices Heard.  Take your analysis to the media!  The few days after Obama speaks to the issue are the most strategic moments to write Letters to the Editor.  Edit your letters from the letter-writing potluck, or write new ones.  For the best chances of getting your letter published, refer to Obama’s announcement and any articles published on it in the paper.

Sample Talking Points (compiled from various sources where you can find additional information on these issues, including:, and

  • In the midst of an economic crisis, our country needs every worker and every employer operating on a level playing field.  The presence of a second class, and underclass of workers is hurting us all through downward pressures on wages, working conditions, and labor rights.  Immigration reform is a crucial component of a lasting economic recovery.
  • Immigration reform that works for all workers means providing immigrant workers the same rights and protections as US-born workers.  That means that all immigrant workers, no matter what their status, have the opportunity to organize a union, the right to a living wage, and the full protection of health and safety standards.  An immigrant’s status should not be tied to his or her employer, and guestworker programs should not be expanded or used as a model for immigration reform.
  • For too long, an angry anti-immigrant lobby has blocked reform and created a climate of heightened racial tensions and fear that have set our country back.  I believe that the time is now to unite as a country and rebuild America together.
  • We cannot let racism and nativism be cloaked in the language of  "border safety" or "anti-crime." Humanitarian policies and accountability in immigration enforcement and border control, the protection of immigrant worker rights, and attainable legalization will help to make our communities safe and secure – not further militarization of the border, increased military funding for Mexico, and massive workplace raids and detentions.
  • At this time of economic uncertainty, it is critical that every individual is able to contribute fully to the economy.  In the mid-1980s we saw that the Reagan amnesty allowed the economy to bounce back, and we know that a good way to grow the economy is to allow full participation to our undocumented neighbors that have been kept at the fringes.