APALA E-Newsletter
The APA Voice of LaborDecember 2010
In This Issue
Unemployment Insurance Extension at Stake
APALA Lifetime Warrior: Alex Hing
DREAM Act: Act Today
Supreme Court Weighs Wal-Mart Discrimination Suit and AZ Employer Sanctions Bill
Unemployment Insurance Extension at Stake
UI insurance

One of the less-examined aspects of the tax cut bill (officially known as the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010) is the extension of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for jobless Americans. In 2009, 3 million Americans avoided poverty as a result of unemployment insurance assistance, according to Senator Kristen Gillibrand. Without extensions, the White House warns that benefits for 2 million Americans are set to sunset in December alone. Over the next year, 7 million people could be without UI benefits. A 13 month UI extension has high ratings (72%), according to a recent poll.

After a cloture vote, the Senate voted 83-15 to support moving ahead with the overall bill which includes tax breaks for Americans at all income levels and extension of UI benefits. The Senate may vote to pass the bill today.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are considering changes to the bill, which means that a conference would have to come to agreement on the two different versions. House Dems are scheduled to debate the bill in a caucus meeting.

Another aspect of the bill which may have long-term consequences is the one-year Social Security payroll tax cut, which somde advocates fear could speed up the eventual deadline for Social Security insolvency.

APALA Lifetime Warrior: Alex Hing

Alex Hing

Alex Hing is a sous chef at a hotel in New York City. He has been a member of UNITE HERE for 43 years, starting as a dishwasher and kitchen cleaner in San Francisco. He was a founding member of the revolutionary Red Guard Party in San Francisco Chinatown. In San Francisco, he helped build a rank and file movement, which overthrew the corrupt and inept leadership of the local and was in the leadership of the historic citywide strike of 1980. He is currently a Trustee of Local 6 and is a founding member of APALA. He is also a Tai Chi instructor, giving workshops nationally and in Europe.

Alex is just one of the the APALA members who decided to show his lifetime commitment to APALA through a $1000 contribution. To find out more about the program, contact info@apalanet.org.

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Labor Day

Thank you again for your support in 2010 as we continued to advance an economic and social justice agenda for our communities. As the year comes to a close, we here at APALA are taking time to reflect and are gearing up for an exciting 2011. After successful hearings this year in New York, Las Vegas, and Detroit, we will continue our Local Worker's Rights Hearings in Oakland & Los Angeles, CA and Seattle, WA.

These hearings will culminate into our Biennial Convention from July 20-24, 2011 in Oakland, CA. The convention theme will be Generations United: Our Jobs, Our Rights & Our Future! APALA is committed to expand our student & worker alliances and find additional ways to engage more young workers in the labor movement. We also recognize the financial hardships that many are facing. APALA wants to help identify pro-active solutions to address unemployment rates and help move our economy back on the right track.

To help us achieve our agenda in the coming year, the APALA National office welcomes Caroline Fan as our new Associate Director. Her name may sound familiar as she previously worked for APALA as Program Director and Communications Advisor. Additionally, she is the author and editor of several reports including APALA's "Breaking Ground, Breaking Silence". Caroline works to engage APAs in the political process through several civic engagement campaigns and her board membership with the Asian American Action Fund.

We are thrilled to have her rejoin the APALA family! As Caroline did, we hope you will follow suit and renew membership with APALA for 2011. As a membership based organization, APALA relies on people like you ensure that we remain strong voice for the APA workers have joined unions and are seeking better pay, improved benefits, dignity on the job, and a voice in the workplace.

Here is to another year of student & worker alliances, community & labor partnerships and building an economic agenda that benefits us all! Happy Holidays!

In unity,

Luisa Blue

APALA National President

Dream Act buttonDREAM Act: Act Today

Last week, youth, education and immigrant advocates cheered as the House passed its version of the DREAM Act on a bipartisan vote (216-198), and vowed to marshal further calls into pivotal Senate offices. The Senate voted to table the bill until further discussion, which is why it's important for us to tell our Senators that we strongly support the bill. Passage of the DREAM Act would provide thousands of immigrant students a path to legal status if they attend college or join the military.

The Senate is poised to vote on this critical bill. You can make a difference by calling your Senator to encourage him or her to support the DREAM Act. Call 1-888-254-5087 or 202-224-3121 and ask to be transferred to the offices of your home state Senators. Tell them that you support passing the DREAM Act. According to a recent poll by First Focus, 70% of Americans support the bill, which makes economic sense.

The non-partisan Office of Management and Budget estimates that the bill will reduce the deficit by $2.2 billion over the next decade. A UCLA group estimates that successful DREAM Act-relief holders will generate $3.6 to $1.4 trillion of income (in current dollars) over the next four decades.

Supreme CourtSupreme Court Weighs Wal-Mart Discrimination Suit and AZ Employer Sanctions Bill

The Supreme Court is currently considering two cases of interest to worker and immigrant advocates - a suit alleging widespread employment discrimination by Wal-Mart, and another case examining a controversial anti-immigrant bill passed in Arizona in 2007 that punishes employers and undocumented workers.

Wal-Mart vs. Dukes is the nation's largest employment discrimination case to date and involves hundreds of thousands of women who feel that the company has systematically discriminated against them on pay and promotion issues. The question is not whether there was discrimination but whether suits by individual workers can be combined into one mammoth class action suit. Wal-Mart is challenging the legality of the size of the class action. Workers argue that it is a systematic, not individual bias that pervades the corporate culture.

Legal expert Thomas Kochan of the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research states, "The reason many of the courts rejected this argument in wage and hour cases and the reason it should be rejected again in the gender discrimination cases is that it has been shown that centralized controls and pressures exerted at the company level produced a broad and generalized pattern of legal violations, not a varied pattern across good/bad stores or good/bad managers."

Because Wal-Mart has taken retaliated against its employees who speak out for their rights, whether to form a union or to simply redress basic safety or wage and hour violations, individual workers fear to file individual claims. The Supreme Court remains one of the only options that these workers have to combat the company's rampant bias. 

The Supreme Court is also investigating the constitutionality of the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA), also known as the Employer Sanctions Immigration Law in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting. Arizona's employer sanctions law basically fines undocumented workers for working in the state and criminalizes employers who hire undocumented workers. It is one of the most onerous and punitive laws of its kind in the country. It has led to immigrants going further underground, businesses closing for lack of customers and employees, and negatively impacted the state economy. Consequently, there is a curious coalition of businesses, unions, immigrant advocates, civil rights groups and the Obama administration arguing against the law.

The court will evaluate the constitutionality of allowing the state to 1) investigate and impose criminal sanctions against employers by revoking their business licenses, and 2) require employers to participate in the Department of Homeland Security's voluntary E-Verify program.

Critics argue that allowing the state to revoke the licenses of employers leads to discrimination against employees and that the state law preempts federal authority. The matter is complicated becayse Justice Elena Kagan worked on the issue as U.S. solicitor general and thus withdrew from the case. This means that because the law was upheld by the 9th Circuit, five of the remaining eight justices would have to agree to overturn the law. A tie vote would uphold the lower court's decision, although it would set no precedent.