Weekly Featured Profile: Eliseo Medina, ‘Immigration Rights’ Marxist

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Eliseo Medina

Eliseo Medina is the country’s leading “immigrants’ rights” activist. He was described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most successful labor organizers in the country” and was named one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders” in Poder Magazine.

He is currently leading the Service Employees International Union efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that “rebuilds the nation’s economy, secures equal labor- and civil-rights protections for workers to improve their wages and work conditions and provides legal channels and a path to citizenship.”

He is also a leader of the U.S.’s largest Marxist organization Democratic Socialists of America.

A veteran of Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers, Medina was mentored by legendary organizer Fred Ross. The Alinskyite Ross trained UFW organizers Marshall Ganz, Miguel Contreras and Medina in voter outreach strategies to reach “occasional” voting Latinos and these three took what they learned to California politics. Ganz and Medina then brought this voter outreach model to the Obama campaign, while Medina would serve on Barack Obama’s 2008 Latino Advisory Council.

Medina joined SEIU in 1986, where he helped revive a local union in San Diego — building its membership from 1,700 to over 10,000 in five years. He was a key strategist in the Los Angeles strike by SEIU Local 1877’s building service workers, who in April 2000 won the largest wage increase in the 15-year history of SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign.

Claiming U.S. immigration policy is “broken and needs to be fixed,” the AFL-CIO on February 16, 2000, called for a new amnesty for millions of undocumented workers and the repeal of the 1986 law that criminalized hiring them.

The position, adopted unanimously by the federation’s Executive Council at its winter meeting in New Orleans, represented a dramatic shift for the AFL-CIO, which had backed the so-called employer sanctions law 15 years previously.

Eliseo Medina, was among the key architects of the new policy.

According to the SEIU website, Medina has played the leading role in uniting Change to Win and AFL-CIO behind the immigration reform movement:

Working to ensure the opportunity to pass comprehensive immigration reform does not slip away, Medina led the effort to unite the unions of the Change to Win federation and AFL-CIO around a comprehensive framework for reform. Serving as a leading voice in Washington, frequently testifying before Congress, Medina has also helped to build a strong, diverse coalition of community and national partners that have intensified the call for reform and cultivated necessary political capitol to hold elected leaders accountable.

Medina has also helped strengthen ties between the Roman Catholic Church and the labor movement to work on common concerns such as immigrant worker rights and access to health care.

At the America’s Future Now! conference in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 2009, SEIU International Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina addressed attendees on the necessity of comprehensive immigration reform.

Speaking of Latino voters, Medina said “when they voted in November, they voted overwhelmingly for progressive candidates. Barack Obama got two out of every three voters that showed up.”

So I think there’s two things that matter for the progressive community.

Number one, if we are to expand this electorate to win, the progressive community needs to solidly be on the side of immigrants, that we’ll expand and solidify the progressive coalition for the future…”

When you are in the middle of a fight for your life you will remember who was there with you. And immigrants count on progressives to be able to do that.

Number two.

“We reform the immigration laws, it puts 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voters”. Can you imagine if we have, even the same ratio, two out of three?

If we have eight million new voters who care about …… and will be voting. We will be creating a governing coalition for the long term, not just for an election cycle…

(more…)

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