New York, NY – “I always believed that Trump meant what he said — and that all the efforts to try to normalize him, negotiate with him, compromise with him, are bound to fail,” the head of the largest property services union in the nation said this weekend. “So, for those in Labor who were hoping for a massive public infrastructure investment, or for a massive fair trade policy — I hope that the writing is on the wall.”
Hector Figueroa, president of SEIU 32BJ, made the remarks at a Cadman Plaza Park demonstration in Downtown Brooklyn on Saturday, which saw thousands rally against the more than 2,300 children that have been taken from their families as a result of the Trump administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.
“It’s very clear: [Trump’s] not interested in helping working people,” Figueroa said. “He’s interested in exploiting and dividing, and using workers to whatever ends he needs.”
Almost immediately after getting into the Oval Office, Trump tried to woo the heads of the nation’s building trades and splinter the Labor Movement with big talk about investing in jobs and protecting U.S. manufacturing. That, however, was long before the Janus decision came down aimed at crippling public sector unions and plants from Carrier to Harley-Davidson shut down shops and shipped jobs overseas.
Figueroa said that Labor’s role now is to “build a bridge between the Progressive Movement and working families from all walks of life.”
“Labor’s role is to build a bridge between the Progressive Movement and working families from all walks of life to understand that these attacks against immigrants, these attacks against women, the attacks against our communities, are an attack on all Labor,” 32BJ’s president said. “And when the president is trying to divide us, and using racism and xenophobia, sexism to weaken us — we need to confront that and show that unity is the way that we build power.”
Immigrants rights advocate Amy Gottlieb, wife of New Sanctuary Coalition Executive Director Ravi Ragbir, said that now is certainly no time for Organized Labor to back down.
“I think everybody has to step up; everybody has to be a part of this,” Gottlieb said. “Everybody has to be looking at who is inside government, and really paying attention to electing people who truly represent the values that unions represent.”
Labor’s role is to build a bridge between the Progressive Movement and working families from all walks of life to understand that these attacks against immigrants, these attacks against women, the attacks against our communities, are an attack on all Labor — 32BJ President Hector Figueroa.
More than 66-percent of Figueroa’s membership are foreign born. Estela Vazquez, executive-vice president of 1199 SEIU — the largest healthcare union in the nation — blasted Trump and asked why there is no “zero tolerance” for poverty, racism and police brutality in the United States.
“We have to generate a heatwave that will scorch that man from the White House,” Vazquez told demonstrators.
Celebrated actor Kerry Washington addressed the Cadman Plaza Park rally as a “union member,” relating the story of one immigrant mother still holding onto to the wrapped Christmas present meant for her son Carlos, and calling the Trump administration so-called “zero tolerance” policy against illegal immigration a “gross violation of human rights.”
Ragbir denounced the ascendency of racism and bigotry in the era of Trump, and the toxic polarization that has ensued.
“Until we start talking to each other and share what is the truth, we will continue to have this confrontation,” Ragbir said. “People are feeling as if there’s a civil war getting ready to explode; like it’s imminent. And you can feel that tension. We shouldn’t be like that because that would only destroy the country.”
Saturday’s Cadman Plaza Park demonstration in Downtown Brooklyn started at Foley Square in Manhattan and moved across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was part of at least five other sister marches against Trump’s family separation campaign held across New York State and hundreds more across the nation.
“The Labor Movement has to stand up to the attack,” Figueroa told demonstrators. “This doesn’t end today. We need to fight for all families.”