700 Rally For Rights

Allan Appel Photo

Labor Leader Bob Proto called it a “crime” that Congress has left immigration reform and a pathway to good jobs so broken for so long for so many. And local student Cinthia Perez declared “I am Mexican, undocumented, unapologetic, and unafraid.”

Theirs were two among 20 passionate voices addressing a crowd of more than 700 who rallied and marched for labor and immigrant rights on a picture-perfect May Day late afternoon on the New Haven Green.

JUNTA and CT Students 4 a Dream member Perez stood beside Josemaria Islas, whose deportation case has become a rallying cry for immigrant-rights activists. Click here for a story of his arrest and the protest of his scheduled deportation. Andclick here to read about how major politicians have taken up his cause.

Many people bore signs at Wednesday evening’s event reading “Keep Families Together.”

Chanting “Que hora es? La hora es ahora!”, activists, unionists, and whole families with sign and balloon-bearing kids filled Church Street curb to curb as the march moved up to City Hall.

Members of Communidad de East Haven, a group of activists created in the aftermath of the racial profiling scandal there, were among advocacy groups from as far away as Bridgeport who attended the rally.

Decmoratic mayoral candidate Henry Fernandez (right, speaking with lead rally organizaer John Lugo of Unidad Latina en Accion) was one of the many politicians and office-seekers in attendance.

The rally’s first speaker, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (pictured with Common Ground senior Kelvin Payton) drew applause when, in support of drivers licenses for undocumented Nutmeggers, he declared, “I want good, safe drivers on our highways, and I don’t care where they come from.”

Abril Casco, 13, with the Latino Advocacy Foundation in Bridgeport, said she was at the rally so that the governor and other leaders would hear her voice.

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posted by: robn on May 2, 2013  9:33am

I disagreed with the recent CONECT attempt to get drivers licences for undocumented immigrants. I think the proponents want a wedge that may enable undocumented immigrants to get citizenship for but I think it teeters on the edge of creating two-tiered citizenship and I find that deeply troubling. Although I found Bob Protos method of co-opting the New Haven BOA to be undemocratic and abusive, in this case I agree with him. This issue can’t be addressed in a piecemeal fashion.

posted by: Noteworthy on May 2, 2013  9:41am

I’m glad Bob Proto found his way across the Q Bridge from his perch near the water to lecture impoverished New Haven people about the evils of our politicians for their handling of immigration reform. Did he tell them they all have to contribute 5% of their paychecks to the union when he organizes them? Just asking.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 2, 2013  10:15am

For so call Black Leaders who are jumping on this immigration reform.I ask you these questionsDo immigrants displace U.S.-born workers.Do immigrants have a deleterious effect on U.S.-born, especially African-American workers?Are immigrants hired in preference to U.S.-born, especially African-American workers?Are immigrants hired in preference to U.S.-born, especially African-American workers?

I say yes to all of the above.What has happened is that the presence of immigrant labor has kept wages down, sidelined African-American labor via discrimination, and in some cases has even led to the exodus of African-Americans from some communities.And to you union leaders did you know that Many union and non-union but well-paid workers, particularly in contracting, believe and cite anecdotal evidence that their wages and sometimes their jobs are melting away as lower-paid non-union immigrant work crews move in.Black folks you better wake up keep on follwing this immigration reform.

posted by: Eddie on May 2, 2013  11:06am

I attended the rally and once again I was struck by the incredible solidarity of working people in New Haven.  The diversity and strength of this movement is an inspiration for the rest of the country.  In an era when many are struggling to hold onto hard-won victories, I’m proud to be living in a city that is pushing ahead.  I’m proud that workers in New Haven continue to work together to win fundamental rights, even as the powerful pursue their well-worn strategy of divide and conquer.

posted by: robn on May 2, 2013  11:51am

Thats nice EDDIE,

Now explain to recent grad student with $200K+ of student debt debt they’re working in a coffee shop while dishwashers at the dining halls are making $70,000/yr.

posted by: Eddie on May 2, 2013  12:42pm


I don’t understand your point.  Are you suggesting that if dishwashers make less money, graduate students will have better employment prospects?  Alternatively are you suggesting that struggling graduate students are spiteful and want others to have lower incomes? 

As a recent grad student myself, I’m convinced that academic workers need to become better organized.  Far too many of us graduate only to find that most of the available employment offer only short-term and low-paying contracts.  The disorganization of others will not resolve this situation.  This is just another reason that I take inspiration from rallies that bring together so many courageous individuals who are fighting for their rights and to improve their living conditions.

posted by: dorothy25 on May 2, 2013  12:49pm

3/5 - Although I find your comments to often be a much-needed breath of fresh air, I must strongly disagree here.

It is not helpful to cite anecdotes that serve to inflame tensions between blacks and immigrants who are working-class/working poor.  Where can we expect to get if we feed the zero-sum belief that raising standards for the most vulnerable workers - the ones without documentation who are easily exploited - must equal worse conditions for American-born ones?  Nowhere fast! 

The main reason employers cite for preferring immigrant workers to African Americans is that they believe that immigrants work harder and “don’t cause trouble,” aka don’t stand up for themselves (See Waldinger and Lichter, 2003).  And if you’re undocumented, you’re vulnerable and insisting on the minimum or a fair wage is extremely risky. 

That is why the most innovative approaches seen in this country are ones that take the issue of immigrant exploitation and discrimination against African Americans together.  For example, UCLA’s Labor Center is doing research and work with this aim.


Another example is the hotel workers union in Los Angeles that has tackled this issue by simultaneously bargaining for language that promotes increased African American hiring and language that provides protections for immigrant workers facing problems with their work authorizations.  The idea is to make it possible for all workers to stand together for better wages and working conditions, rather than allow one group to be pit against another.

posted by: robn on May 2, 2013  1:21pm


I’m suggesting that if you penalize creative complex work by rewarding uncreative and less complex work, you’re incentivizing mediocrity.

posted by: Eddie on May 2, 2013  2:21pm


I’m not penalizing any type of work.  Unions are not penalizing any type of work.  Quite to the contrary unions continue to work and improve the terms of employment in most sectors of the economy.

On the other hand, work does become penalized when workers are only able to take short-term and low-paying contracts.  It is difficult to engage in creative and complex work when one is worried about having an income. Unfortunately, this mode of employment is becoming more common in most economic sectors, including academic work.  But again we can’t blame unions for this situation.  Union density and these troubling trends are on opposite trajectories.  I take this as a call for better and denser worker organization, not less.

posted by: robn on May 2, 2013  3:07pm


Are you saying that university employee compensation doesn’t contribute to student debt?

Are you saying that compensation should be weighted more towards common tasks than to, for example, something like finding a cure for cancer? (assuming you agree with me that our societal money supply isn’t bottomless.)

P.S. My example isn’t hypothetical. I know highly trained young chemists who have been out of work for some time.

posted by: lawrence st on May 2, 2013  3:26pm

I was at the rally and march, and it was amazing to see everyone turn out. Life is not a zero-sum game, and neither is the economy, despite what fear-mongerers from the right say. By making this country, this state, and this city a better, safer place to live and work for immigrants, we are making it a better, safer place to live and work for EVERYONE. The same sorts of things were said about the 8-hour workday, and child labor laws. Yet instead of the economy failing and jobs disappearing, we prospered. Immigrant rights will make us a better, stronger nation.

posted by: Eddie on May 2, 2013  4:44pm


Yes it is too simple to assume that employee compensation contributes to student debt.  It is too simple to assume that your chemist friends would be employed in a world without unions.  It is too simple to assume that less employee compensation would produce more resources for cancer research.  By the way I didn’t know that compensation towards “common tasks” is weighted more than finding a cure for cancer.  Please show me how you came to this conclusion.   

Universities are extremely complex organizations that are constantly striving to fulfill numerous ends.  There is no reason to believe that a reduction in pay will provide resources for any particular end.  You seem to believe that there is a benevolent dictator that would give resources to your favored causes, if only unions would get out of the way.  This benevolent dictator doesn’t exist.   

It is interesting that when universities are relying more on causal and cheap labor, student debt is exploding and there is a glut in the academic job market.  Do you know if students end up with less debt when they attend universities that have non-unionized labor forces and pay employees minimum wage?  What is the average difference?  Do you know if universities dedicate more resources to cancer research when they pay many of their employees minimum wage?  Do you know if there is any empirical relationship between union density and cancer research?  My guess is that you have no clue, but please show me that I am wrong.  Otherwise please continue to cite anecdotes and devise hypothetical counterfactuals until you are blue in the face.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 2, 2013  4:52pm

posted by: dorothy25 on May 2, 2013 12:49pm

Several recent studies based on interviews with employers have provided direct evidence that employers prefer immigrants to blacks. This would appear to provide ironclad proof of employer racism.  Working class Blacks have been hit the hardest by unemployment as it stands at 14%. The jobs that many African Americans once held have been replaced by Latino workers. No one can afford to overlook this problem especially because African Americans are not immigrants and most have family roots in the US since the inception of this country from slavery.

The Case Against Immigration:

On the Backs of Black Americans: The Past*

Roy Beck


posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 2, 2013  4:57pm

posted by: robn on May 2, 2013 11:51am
Thats nice EDDIE,

Now explain to recent grad student with $200K+ of student debt debt they’re working in a coffee shop while dishwashers at the dining halls are making $70,000/yr.

Here is why.


Student Debt and the Economy

Published: March 9, 2013

Notice The student debt crisis has its roots in state cuts to higher education that began in the 1980s. By savaging support to the public colleges and universities that educate about 70 percent of the nation’s students, the states forced up tuition, causing students to borrow steadily more.Students who have taken out private loans from banks or other institutions are often stuck with high interest rates, high payments and few consumer protections. For example, one federal analysis of student payments in 2009 found that 10 percent of borrowers with private loans were spending more than 25 percent of their incomes in monthly payments.


But you love blaming the unions.

posted by: robn on May 2, 2013  8:37pm


If I’m blue in the face its because I’m laughing at your assertion that rising personnel costs don’t increase tuition costs. Classic union obfuscation! I hope the electorate sees through it next time around but I’m not hopeful because you guys just keep the propaganda coming. Its pretty impressive actually.

For the record I WAS a staunch supporter of unions until the locals showed their colors and co-opted the BOA for their own personal gain.

posted by: Claudia Herrera on May 3, 2013  9:36am

The issues that these kind of rallies create show the passion and needs of expression and solution request from different point of views and in many cases coming from personal experiences or just to have an opinion.

Have an opinion is important tool for our society to form, laws, rules, cities, groups, etc and that is different of having the reason,  the correct answers and solutions that will work in benefit of a small group of individuals. That being said,seems like still the mentality of blaming undocumented immigrants for many of the debts in the system in general, dorothy25 tried to explain that is a lot more on the table and make a good points.

But seems to me that will no matter how many reason your explain anybody that is not living it in their own flesh there is not way that will listen AND that’s why the need to asked for justice for the ones do not have a voice.

For those who had the red numbers all figure out,trying to be hones for a few seconds. What will be if your request get grand it and all undocumented immigrants disappeared? Will you be that person that will work 10 hours a day for 8.25 or in many cases less? And now get back to reality, none of these people are going to go away so that will be better to start figuring out how we are going to work together.