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WSLC fights for immigrant workers’ rights

Urge legislators to support unemployment protections for undocumented workers


OLYMPIA (Feb. 22, 2023) — Immigrant rights are workers’ rights. In Washington, where one in eight workers is an immigrant, foreign-born working folks are an essential part of our workforce and beloved members of our communities.

That’s why advocating for our immigrant siblings in labor – and all immigrant workers – is a priority of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions. The WSLC’s Organizing and Communications Departments – organizers Dulce Gutierrez and Ingrid Chapman, along with communicators David Groves and Sarah Tucker – support this work.

Their recent focus? Ensuring all immigrant workers have access to unemployment benefits. In collaboration with allied labor and community groups, the WSLC is advocating for SB 5109 and HB 1095, which would provide unemployment insurance for undocumented immigrants.

The WSLC joined an Immigrant & Refugee Lobby Day on Feb. 17 at the State Capitol. 

Washington state doesn’t function without immigrant workers. And immigrants, regardless of documentation status, pay taxes. In Washington, which relies heavily on sales tax, the tax burden falls heaviest on the working class, which means immigrants pay a lot of taxes. In fact, the American Immigration Council estimates that immigrants in Washington pay more than $1 billion in taxes annually. Yet despite paying into the state coffers, undocumented immigrant workers cannot access unemployment insurance if they lose their job.

This is unjust. It’s bad for working folks, and it’s bad for our communities – one worker’s job loss cascades across the community when businesses lose customers and folks can’t pay rent.

TAKE A STAND!Click here to send a message to your Washington state legislators urging them to support SB 5109/HB 1095. This action is particularly important if your legislators serve on the Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations committees, as the bills need a hearing and vote before the fiscal cut-off deadline this Friday, Feb. 24.

SB 5109/HB 1095 are important for supporting the organizing work of WSLC-affiliated unions representing workers in hospitality, agriculture, warehousing, ride-share and construction. It’s essential for making our union siblings whole. And it is just part of the work that the Organizing and Communications Departments at the WSLC are doing to advocate for immigrant workers.

We know many union members are immigrants. The WSLC exists to fiercely defend their rights, and the rights of all workers.

This advocacy helps build power for all workers, and a stronger labor movement. Workers are at our weakest when wedge issues divide us. Employers have long used immigration status as just such a wedge, threatening immigrant workers with retaliation and working hard to instill an “us vs. them” mentality in U.S.-born workers.

Anything that divides us threatens our solidarity. Anything that pits workers against one another threatens our strength. When employers can use immigration status to bully workers, we all lose.

That’s the value of our Immigrant & Worker Justice Toolkit. Created in collaboration with the WSLC Labor & Immigration Committee (chaired by Connie Rodriguez, LIUNA 1239), this collection of resources offers concrete tools to unions for defending and advocating for immigrant workers and union members. From model contract language, know-your-rights resources for immigration raids, best practices for language access and more, this labor-created toolkit ensures our affiliated unions have essential tools for building power for immigrant workers, and our entire movement.

If your union is looking for support in organizing or communications, contact the WSLC at


WSLC Wednesdays is a feature of The Stand where different departments of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO describe their recent activities and the services they are providing to WSLC-affiliated unions.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!