Immediately following the deportation of one of its members last August, Teamsters Joint Council 16, “the umbrella group for 27 Teamsters locals in and around New York City,” declared itself a “sanctuary union,” saying it would “not voluntarily cooperate with federal agents in the prosecution or attempted deportation of Teamster members.” And since then, “across Long Island and throughout the city,” Teamsters are making good on their word:
In 27 shops, business agents, supervisors and front-line workers are getting schooled on their rights under U.S. law — and when and how to challenge federal immigration agents who show up to search their work sites.
The training is complex and technical — hinging on specific types of warrants and the definition of a raid.
But in fundamental labor terms, it follows one simple rule: Union solidarity first, immigration status second.
While “many Teamsters are white, blue-collar men—a demographic that in some unions skewed toward Trump in the 2016 presidential election,” about 40,000 members are immigrants, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. “Vinnie Marino of Local 917 said one of his members—a Dreamer brought to the U.S. by his Guatemalan mom when he was 10—is in constant fear of being grabbed”:
“He’s a great kid, 22 years old, works really hard and shows up on time every day,” said Marino, whose truck-driving members supply the city’s bars, hotels, restaurants and stores with wine and liquor.
“He has to check in with authorities every two years and this last time they gave him a really hard time — we had to get a lawyer involved,” he said. “He got through it, but he has to do it again fairly soon, and the lawyer said there’s not much she can do. He’s just living in limbo and terrified he’ll get deported.”
“We saw and felt that concern, and we are responding to it,” said Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda. “And that includes all our members, from all backgrounds. When we’re out on strike, we’re all the same on the picket line—what matters is that you’re a Teamster, and fighting with us.”