Burmese refugee workers strike, claim discrimination and turn to AFL-CIO
Posted by Ann Corcoran on November 5, 2009
I can’t resist saying, I told you so. Here we have a case from Pennsylvania where recently resettled Burmese refugees have walked off the job with other American workers claiming wage discrimination and unsafe working conditions.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not disputing their claim, I suspect they do have miserable jobs and miserable living conditions, but who placed them in that situation—some do-gooder far left refugee resettlement agency/employment service in conjunction with the Obama State Department—NOT some evil conservative right-winger!
The article doesn’t tell us who resettled them, but like so many articles of this sort, the reader is left to assume they magically came to be in the vicinity of Pittsburgh on their own! Here is a list of resettlement agencies in Pennsylvania, one of them brought the Burmese to this place of employment.
This is the story from the AFL-CIO News (what else!):
Aung Oo fled his native Burma with his family to escape the brutality, ethnic violence and repression of that country’s military dictatorship.
After being allowed to legally migrate to the United States under the refugee resettlement program, he faces another kind of oppression―working for an employer that pays him half what he should make and that forces him and his co-workers, both native and foreign, to work in unsafe conditions.
So on Sept. 8, Aung Oo and a U.S.-born employee, Tim Hand, went on strike against W&K Steel on behalf of all the other 35 workers in the plant, located in Rankin, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh. They are still on strike.
Several W&K workers described their experiences to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and spoke to a group of international labor leaders at the AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh. The workers also will testify Nov. 13 at a National Workers’ Rights Hearing sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). The hearing will be at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Talking with Trumka, one refugee told how he and his family of five live in a small two-bedroom apartment supplied by the company. He works an average of 50 hours a week and grosses approximately $25,000 annually, with overtime. Other workers say they are expected to run large presses and shears that cut steel beams, but have no guards to protect against severing fingers and hands.
The American-born workers at W&K don’t fare much better. They say they must endure unsafe working conditions, with workloads increasing and time to safely perform the tasks decreasing. They also say the company’s health plan is unaffordable and the pay is low.
Hand said he is on strike because the way workers, native and foreign, are treated is dangerous.
“… only to find themselves working in unjust conditions here!” Who lined up the job for them? Some refugee resettlement agency with the State Department’s help did! And, they won’t be forced back to Burma—-it is maddening to see this type of distortion. We don’t send refugees back when they don’t have jobs! Heck, we hardly send them back if they have committed major crimes.
The Burmese refugees came to the United States to escape oppression, only to find themselves working in unjust conditions here, says Chad Rankin, an organizer with the Ironworkers and a member of the Three Rivers Coalition for Justice, which is assisting the workers.
“The refugees feared challenging the unsafe working environment, shoddy housing and substandard wages because they are afraid they will lose their jobs and be forced back to Burma,” Rankin says.
We are exploited!
Aung Oo says he is on strike because America is supposed to be a land of opportunity and equality.
I stood up and went on strike not only for myself but for all the refugee workers in the shop because our community is suffering. I know that we are exploited.
This is a strategy! It has Alinsky (Rules for Radicals) written all over it!
I know for most of you its hard to comprehend, but I swear this is a strategy! Far Leftwing progressives (or whatever you want to call them), bring in poor refugees and place them in horrible working conditions, then in a kind of ‘double-teaming’ the Far Left unions (like the AFL-CIO and SEIU) ‘organize’ them, sign them up as members, and complain that evil capitalists are exploiting them!
Note to AFL-CIO: In that upcoming hearing I hope you are honest and identify how these Burmese ‘came to be’ in that place of employment in the first place! Name the resettlement agency!
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