Jennifer Kauffman is an AFL-CIO immigration policy and training associate. These are her thoughts on allies crossing the Hyatt picket line to attend the 2012 Online News Association Conference & Awards Banquet (ONA).
Colleagues in the immigration advocacy and DREAM movement have wondered aloud whether journalist Jose Antonio Vargas crossing the picket line was such a bad thing, after all, since he drew the attention of more than 100 journalists to the plight of the Hyatt Hurts campaign workers.
The answer is simply this: Crossing a picket hurts EVERYONE.
At the heart of both the union movement and the immigrant movement is the sacred belief that we have to be united 100% of the time. Unity can’t be a part-time thing. Because once you make an exception here and there, our united front weakens and falls away. DREAMers know from personal experience that you win not by easy asks but by putting those in charge in uncomfortable, difficult positions.
The act of crossing a picket line isn’t made less problematic by speaking about the plight of workers. In a way, Jose Antonio Vargas' remarks gave the public the impression that crossing a picket is no big deal. Think of the power that Jose could have lent to the workers' fight if he had refused to cross the picket line. Organizations would wake up and realize they can’t book events at boycotted Hyatt hotels if they want to ensure high-caliber attendees.
I’m disappointed in my friends who crossed the picket line, not because they don’t know the ins and outs of the movement, but because the goals and tactics of the immigration and union movements are so similar and DREAMers especially know that great victories only come at the expense of great sacrifices and bravery.
The immigrant women behind the Hyatt Hurts campaign have risked so much in pursuit of basic rights and dignity that often I feel ashamed for all that I have. They knew the price of their actions would be termination from their jobs, but they believed fiercely they must stand up for what is right. We should honor these women by standing with them and when they ask us to hold firm and not frequent a hotel that has abused them, others like them and to not cross the picket line.
Read more about the Hyatt Hurts campaign at www.HyattHurts.org.