Update December 2nd: More background on this story here.
Update November November 27th: UK reader tells us why Karen must have proper interpreters, here.
Let’s see, is it an ‘evil’ Catholic Charities, an ‘evil’ business, or the ‘evil’ labor unions? Or, maybe all three? I believe that for the first time, I am seeing evidence of a thesis I have been promoting on these pages for a long time. My theory is that refugees and other immigrants are being used as political pawns by the Far Left to bring about crisis using Alinsky’s (Rules for Radicals) methods with the ultimate goal of changing our form of government (see posts in our Community Destabilization category).
This is the story today in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that prompted me to look a little further. We have already discussed some of this controversy in a previous post, here.
A group of Burmese refugees protested their treatment by Catholic Charities at the opening of an immigrant center yesterday. Gosh, don’t you wonder who taught them to protest in this manner and present their demands—the union community organizers of course.
Refugees from Myanmar picketed the opening of a new welcome center for clients of Catholic Charities at its Downtown office yesterday.
Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, who dedicated the Susan Zubik Welcome Center in honor of his late mother, went out to meet the protesters, who spoke little or no English. Counting children, they included more than 30 ethnic Karens, who carried handwritten signs such as, “We demand a professional translator who speaks our language.”
The protest was organized by Three Rivers Coalition for Justice, a group with ties to organized labor that helps workers with problems such as evictions. It printed a leaflet claiming that Catholic Charities had assigned the Karens a Burmese translator who did not speak the Karen dialect and who treated them with contempt.
It claimed that a Karen refugee facing eviction had given $500 to a Catholic Charities caseworker to pay his rent, but eviction notices kept coming. It also said that refugees are placed in low-paying, dangerous jobs.
Bishop Zubik said he tried to invite the protesters in for food. “But they didn’t speak English.”
The core of the problem stems from the allegedly unhappy refugees working at W & K Steel nearby.
Ms. Rauscher said that there are only 20 Karen translators nationwide, and that Catholic Charities investigated reports that their translator was prejudiced against Karens. Those who worked closely with her saw no sign of it, she said. [Ms. Rauscher, there are several Karen Burmese in Bowling Green, KY who speak English well enough to translate, maybe you could get one of those and free him or her from the misery of chicken plant work.]
But the core of the dispute involves 14 Burmese workers at W&K Steel in Rankin. The Three Rivers Coalition for Justice says they are paid less than other workers, and that they all work in dangerous conditions.
Two W&K employees, one of them Burmese, went on strike in September, and Ironworkers Local 3 is supporting their action. According to the Coalition for Justice, there are 35 employees total. Ed Wilhelm, owner of W&K, did not return phone calls.
Ms. Rauscher said Catholic Charities didn’t place any clients there, but that two got jobs on their own initiative. After the labor complaints, a social worker asked them if their workplace was safe and if they wanted to find new jobs.
“They said they liked their jobs and wanted to stay,” she said.
“I’m not sure what’s going on with W&K Steel and the Ironworkers. … But from our perspective, we didn’t see that this employer was exploiting the refugee workers,” she said.
Mr. Rink (Chad Rink, an Ironworkers organizer with Three Rivers Coalition for Justice) said he believes the workers lied to Catholic Charities about work conditions.
“They are afraid for their jobs,” he said.
Then we have the usual old saw that refugees only get $425 when they come to the US.
Ms. Rausher said all refugees struggle to make ends meet, especially when they arrive without western job skills. The government provides a one-time grant of $425 to set them up in an apartment. Most of the money Catholic Charities spends on refugees is from donors, she said.
Well, that’s not exactly accurate Ms. Rausher, most of your funding comes from the taxpayers of the United States. See Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s most recent Form 990 here and note that in a total income of $9,583,772, $5,322,899 is from government grants and $1,138,826 is indirect public support (this is a category I have come to realize is also money from the government somehow, contracts maybe). So they are mostly government funded and that government funding probably allowed them to open this “welcome” center where the demonstration took place.
We have previously reported that Catholic Charities placed refugees in a Pittsburgh area slum building for the past decade here, so we know there is some veracity to the charges that refugees have been neglected. In addition to this story, there are reports in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette that Somali Bantu resettled in the area in 2005 had similar problems.
I have no clue who is telling the truth about the working conditions at W & K Steel. Readers will need to read all the links I’m providing and try to sort that out. Frankly, I wondered why a business in this day and age would be so stupid as to pay a legal immigrant worker less than other comparable workers at the plant (as alleged in this story) thus opening themselves up for discrimination charges.
There has always been a rumor that somehow the “employment service” whoever that was in this case, Catholic Charities or the Jewish agency mentioned, gets a piece from the refugee workers salary, but I can’t believe any of them would be so foolish to set up such an arrangement.
Sorry, Three Rivers Coalition for Justice, I don’t believe you either. I think you are ticked off at Catholic Charities over the health care debate and that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is standing firm on abortion (the only thing they are standing firm on) so you are setting up the Burmese to go after CC as well (although I might agree they need to be gone after)! Three Rivers is teaching Catholic Charities a lesson, and CC since you have gone to bed with the Far Left I have no sympathy for you.
Exploitation of immigrant workers is the heart and soul of the labor movement in the US!
At a website called “Talking Union” a site for the Democratic Socialists of America, an article entitled, “Indentured Workers Fight Back” confirms, at least to me, that the Burmese refugees may be being exploited by business, and not properly cared for by Catholic Charities, but pro-union socialists use them too to promote their cause— “changing” America.
Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States, and the U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International. DSA’s members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly socialist presence in American communities and politics.
Here is what they are saying about the Burmese refugees in the Pittsburgh area and this controversy. Please read this!
Right in the Pittsburgh area a new and surprising strike around related issues is being waged with support from the Ironworkers Local 3. Some 35 workers at an unorganized steel fabrication factory in Rankin, W & K Steel, went on strike against unsafe and dangerous working conditions, and to demand an end to discrimination in wages and other treatment against the 14 workers who are refugees from Burma. The refugees, who have legal status and the right to work in the USA, are placed for employment at W&K by Catholic Charities and the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Pittsburgh, which take no responsibility for the unsafe and discriminatory conditions under which the refugees are placed. A statement from the striking American workers reads: “We feel as Americans that it is our duty to defend the defenseless and expose the wickedness of the unjust.”
More information on this strike is available from the Three Rivers Coalition for Justice, 2201 Liberty Ave, Ste 4, Pittsburgh Pa 15222, phone 412-849-1271.
Such moral solidarity as demonstrated here between American workers and Burmese refugees is the heart and soul of the labor movement in America. If the struggle for the rights of immigrant and indentured workers is becoming considered part of organized labor’s core agenda for workers rights, it is clearly not on the immediate or middle term agenda of the Obama administration. Painful struggles against ferocious resistance by reactionary and nativist elements must be waged. Solidarity for battles like those at Signal and W&K Steel build the heart needed to wage those battles.
In conclusion, refugees are being used all around in my opinion! The folks at Catholic Charities (and other government contractors) get their salaries paid primarily from the US government and they get to pat themselves on the back for bringing the downtrodden to America while seemingly being cavalier about the living conditions in which they place refugees. Businesses may take advantage of them. And, then their supposed friends in the socialist unions like this one, use them to promote their socialist agendas. Frankly, it stinks!