Unions, faith leaders step up efforts against Alabama immigration law

A major labor union lodged a complaint against the U.S. government this week with the United Nation's International Labor Organization over Alabama's harsh immigration law.

Filed by the Service Employees International Union and its affiliate, the Southern Regional Joint Board of Workers United, the complaint says that HB 56's provisions against transporting undocumented immigrants and banning contracts made with them interferes with the workers' ability to form and join unions.

"The fact that the violations in this case are the work on an individual State, does not insulate the U.S. from responsibility," said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry and International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina in a letter that accompanied the complaint. "Furthermore, the efforts of the executive branch of the U.S. government to challenge the law are simply insufficient to protect these workers and our trade union now, or into the future, without a deeper commitment to federal legislative reform."

A delegation of labor and civil rights groups is also visiting Germany this week asking Daimler -- the auto manufacturer that's one of Alabama's biggest employers -- to take a stand against the law. The delegation includes the AFL-CIO, America's Voices and National Council of La Raza. Last month labor and civil rights leaders made a similar visit to the headquarters of South Korea's Hyundai, another auto maker with major Alabama operations.

Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the ILO brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to draw up and oversee international labor standards.

Meanwhile, religious leaders from across Alabama chose the week leading up to Easter and Passover to begin airing a television commercial calling on legislators to repeal HB 56.

The ad from Faith Leaders for a Welcoming Alabama says that under the law religious leaders who reach out to immigrants can be prosecuted, that farmers' crops are rotting in the fields because there aren't enough workers for harvest, and that teachers are forced to act as immigration agents.

Narrated by Rev. Steve Jones of Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, the ad says the law hurts children and families and "doesn't reflect the values of our faith." It calls on Alabama citizens to contact their legislators.

While HB56 made "harboring and transporting" undocumented immigrants a crime, that provision has been temporarily blocked by the courts.

The ad will run for two weeks in Montgomery markets and is also available online. Watch it here:

(Image above is a still from the ad by Faith Leaders for a Welcoming Alabama.)