WSLC Immigration Summit: United, ‘we always win’


SEATTLE (Mar. 25, 2024) — “Documented or undocumented, workers will be treated with respect.”

This rallying cry was the spirit behind Transform and Transition: The 2024 Labor Immigration Summit this past weekend. More than 150 workers, advocates, and labor leaders gathered on March 23 at the Machinists District 751 Hall in South Seattle to build community, grow practical skills, and uplift immigrant workers.

The summit opened with a welcome from Connie Rodriguez, Chair of the Labor and Immigration Committee of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO (WSLC), and Rigo Valdez, Presidents’ Organizing Initiative Coordinator at MLK Labor.

WSLC President April Sims’s opening remarks elevated the importance of immigrant justice work for building power for all working people.

“As labor leaders, we know a fundamental truth: if there is anything that divides us as working people, bad bosses and wealthy elites will weaponize those divisions to break worker power,” Sims said. “We’ve seen cynical raids and enforcement actions used to break worker organizing. We’ve seen anti-immigrant sentiment weaponized to strip workers of their power. We’ve seen immigrants scapegoated as a cover for the many ways that corporations and billionaires exploit working folks and our communities.”

Zenia Javalera

Silvia Gonzalez, Director of Casa Latina, introduced the keynote speaker, SEIU 6 President Zenia Javalera, to boisterous cheers from the room, with joyful, raucous applause from the large contingent of SEIU 6 members in attendance.

Javalera, the proud daughter of immigrants, spoke about her family’s experience with immigration detention and deportation, and how these experiences are touchstones for many SEIU 6 members, and workers across labor. And how, despite the challenges and dangers immigrant workers face, workers are still rising up:

“They still take to the streets, they still fight. And we always win.”

Panelists spoke on approaches and tactics for successfully building power for immigrant workers, and lessons learned from their sectors. The panel was moderated by Amy Leong (APALA Seattle), and panelists included Edgar Franks (Familias Unidas por la Justicia), Eunice How (UNITE HERE 8, APALA Seattle), Diana Noinala (IAM 751), Jane Hopkins (SEIU 1199 Healthcare NW), and Sasha Wasserstrom (WAISN).

Participants joined workshops covering topics ranging from a deep dive on organizing in immigrant communities to an overview of the Injury2All campaign.

And joy and justice took center stage for a lunchtime groove, tunes courtesy of DJ Exesive.

Countless individuals and organizations contributed to the success of this summit.

“This summit is a testament to the power of immigrant workers organizing within our movement, and to the dedication of Washington’s labor movement to build power for immigrant workers,” said lead summit organizer Dulce Gutierrez, the WSLC’s Union, Community & Naturalization Organizer. “Muchas gracias a todos!”

Exit mobile version