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UE: Service Contract Act Locals Fight for Jobs, Effective Immigration Process

LAGUNA NIGUEL, CA & LINCOLN, NE—Members of UE Locals 1008 in California and 808 in Nebraska held a series of rallies over the past two weeks to protest the mass layoffs currently ongoing within US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Four hundred and fifty Local 1008 members in California who process immigration applications have been laid off or have received notice that they will be laid off. More layoffs are expected in Nebraska, home of Local 808, and Vermont, where UE Local 208 represents several hundred workers.

Local 1008 members rally against layoffs in Laguna Niguel, California

“We think that USCIS is making the wrong decision here because they’re really not helping anyone — the people trying to get through the immigration system and the people just trying to have steady middle-class good union jobs,” said Local 808 Vice President Jackson Thomas. “A lot of the work they’re moving is to low-pay, low-benefit places.” In a press release, Local 1008 said the termination of hundreds of jobs will hamper the federal government’s ability to process an already-backlogged immigration system, and are part of a pattern of union-busting.

The hundreds of UE members who are employed by federal contractors at the USCIS service centers in California, Nebraska and Vermont are trained, experienced workers, with many having worked on behalf of the U.S. immigration system for decades. Since USCIS has begun transferring their work to inexperienced, non-union workers in facilities in Texas and elsewhere, there have been critical errors, including mishandling of classified information.

Local 808 members in Lincoln, Nebraska rallied in solidarity

USCIS has also kept information about the next phase of layoffs from employees and has given layoff notices just days before termination. “I have worked at CSC [the California Service Center] since 1997,” said Local 1008 member Alice Hughes. “It is very upsetting to me that the government wants to close this service center and send our work, along with our more than 50 thousand-dollar scanners to Texas, a service center prone to flooding and hurricanes. I am very angry because we have the space and experienced employees to handle all USCIS petitions. Yet the government still thinks it’s better to send everything to a flooded building rather than process them at a service center that is ready, willing and able to do the job.”

In a press release this week, Local 1008 said there is evidence that suggests management knew of the plan to eliminate the jobs for years, but ignored the ethics of good-faith bargaining by withholding the information. Local 1008 shop steward Jed Klang said, “I have been working at CSC for over 20 years and have never seen such an unjust issue with the government — and it hurts.”

Local 808 in Nebraska took to the street in solidarity with their sibling local. “What they’re doing is moving this work around to non-union places,” said Local 808 President Dawn Meyer. “USCIS needs to take a look at their practices. While they are responsible for being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers, they are also responsible for ensuring that the workers the government employs are making a living wage.”

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