Unions Seize on Immigration Debate

By Melanie Trottman, Miriam Jordan and Kris Maher, The Wall Street Journal

Labor unions are throwing their political muscle behind lawmakers’ efforts to overhaul immigration regulations, with the hope that organizing immigrant workers can swell unions’ shrinking ranks.

When one car wash in Los Angeles unionized, its workers saw benefits improve. One worker, Manuel Aguilar, saw his weekly pay double and he was able to move into a bigger house. Here, he washes a car Monday.

The Service Employees International Union plans to spend millions of dollars on advertising, rallies and letter-writing campaigns to lawmakers in support of an overhaul. On Tuesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other labor leaders are set to meet with President Barack Obama on immigration, along with chief executives from companies including Coca-Cola Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Union leaders see immigrant workers—particularly newly legalized ones who might become more likely to join—as a bright spot that could safeguard their future amid public-sector budget constraints and a trend toward weakening collective-bargaining rights. The percentage of all wage and salary U.S. workers in a union, at 11.3%, is roughly half what it was 30 years ago.


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