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DECEMBER 18, 2006
3:05 PM

Esmeralda Aguilar (202) 637-5018

Statement by AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney on International Migrants Day

WASHINGTON - December 18 - Today, in observance of the United Nations’ International Migrants Day, we stand together with migrant workers and immigrant communities worldwide to call on the U.S. government to uphold the human and civil rights of all migrant workers and their families.

Sixteen years ago today, in recognition of the inalienable rights of migrants around the world, the UN General Assembly approved the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and the day was designated International Migrants Day. That Convention - - which the United States, shamefully, has yet to ratify - - is a comprehensive international treaty upholding the guaranteed rights of migrant workers, based on the fundamental notion that all migrants should have access to a minimum degree of protection. The AFL-CIO joins the global labor movement in calling on governments to promote and protect migrant workers’ rights and calls on the U.S. government to ratify the treaty.

There are an estimated 120 million migrant workers worldwide. Many governments encourage migration as an economic strategy to help address unemployment and the majority of these workers receive few protections and often work in dangerous, low-paying jobs. In the worst abuse, workers are trafficked into virtual slavery through sweatshop labor, domestic servitude and other exploitative work conditions. Through programs supported by the Solidarity Center, an AFL-CIO allied organization, unions are working with migrants to protect their rights and develop pro-migrant public policies.

The U.S. government must implement an immigration policy that prioritizes workers’ rights. Unfortunately, the rights of migrant workers have been largely ignored in the political discussions concerning comprehensive immigration reform. Corporations continue to call on Congress to create a new large guest worker program, which will provide corporations with a constant stream of exploitable workers and create a secondary class of workers that will drive down workplace standards for all workers.

 As a nation that prides itself on fair treatment and equality, we should accept the standards of rights laid out by the UN Convention on migrants and demand immigration reform that will guarantee that all workers who labor in our nation enjoy full protections of the laws.


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