Denise Young’s Remarks at Immigration Justice Rally

Coalition for Immigration Justice Rally and Vigil
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Buffalo Federal Detention Center, Batavia, NY

Remarks of Denise Young
United Steelworkers of America Delegate
Public Employees Federation Staff
on behalf of the Rochester, NY and Vicinity Labor Council, AFL-CIO

July 30, 2013

Good afternoon, Sisters and Brothers.

My name is Denise Young.  I am here speaking on behalf of the Rochester Labor Council, an organization of many unions, representing over 60,000 members in the Rochester area.  Our president, Jim Bertolone, sends his greetings to the many advocates and supporters assembled here today.

The Rochester Labor Council, as an affiliate of the national AFL-CIO, strongly supports the reform of our immigration system and a path to citizenship for the 10 – 12 million undocumented working people – men, women and children – here in the United States.

We may have disagreements about particular tactics and strategies for accomplishing comprehensive reform of the immigration system, but there are a number of fundamental issues upon which we agree today…and will always agree.

There is no such thing as an “illegal human being.” Immigrants…documented or not…come here looking for jobs and justice.  They are workers, and sometimes, families, who, because of the great fluxes in the US economy’s demand for labor, come to harvest our crops, tend our elderly, work in our restaurants and construction areas.  Sometimes, they participate in the STEM arenas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Without legal protections, these workers are subject to unsafe working conditions, theft of their wages, threats of violence, unlawful retaliation and the ultimate threat of deportation.  

In short, in far too many communities around our nation and right here in Western and Central New York, working people – with the same aspirations as you and I – live in fear  – and sometimes in the conditions of indentured servitude.

We must have an immigration policy that reflects OUR values, not the interests of the corporations and politicians who are anti-worker, regardless of the status of workers’ citizenship.  In fact, the most rabidly anti-immigrant politicians in US politics are also some of the most anti-worker politicians in the country.  Many such politicians have skillfully diverted attention from their anti-worker agenda by drumming up anti-immigrant anxiety and fear in their constituents. 

These are not the values of the labor movement and its allies.  Our values call for full and complete access to the protection of labor, health and safety, and other laws; for an effective labor standards enforcement initiative that prioritizes workers’ rights and workplace protections; that free and quality education is available for all; that wages and working conditions enable workers and their families to live lives without deprivation.  That NO workers should live in fear of the terror of deportation ripping their families apart.  

These values, which working people have fought and died for, must be the path to citizenship – in a nation and its Congress  – which affirms the rights of working people and their inherent dignity.

Para todos los trabajadores, no solo un estatus temporario, para aquellos que sean escogidos por las corporaciones.  Como ven, esto nos concierne a todos!

Working people are strongest when we struggle together. The labor movement is strongest when it is open and comprised of ALL workers.

Si se puede!

As a staff member of the Public Employees Federation, Denise Young is a member of its staff union affiliated with the United Steelworkers of America (USW).  She is a Delegate to the Rochester and Vicinity Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and serves on its executive board.  She previously worked as organizing director for SEIU Local 1199 Rochester and as executive director of Metro-Justice of Rochester.


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