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Andy Stern Headshot

For the Times They Are A-Changin'

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You know the winds of change are blowing when U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donahue, of all people, stands side-by-side with me, a labor leader, in Washington to jointly call for realistic and comprehensive immigration reform that would restrict the ability of employers to exploit the 11 million undocumented workers in this country.

Or when South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, a conservative from a non-border state home to remarkably few immigrants, signs on to legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship co-authored by his liberal Senate colleague from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy.

Yes, the emergence of strange political bedfellows proves the old ways don't work and it's going to take new kinds of leadership to get a system that does. But the most important barometer of change in this critical debate is how immigrant and American workers are now coming together like never before to call on Congress to enact the right kind of solution.

Already, one million people - busy, overworked people who never have enough time to spend with their families at home let alone march in the streets - turned out to reject an unworkable, unjust House proposal in cities across the country.

In LA alone, the Times reported what "was initially expected to draw fewer than 20,000 ballooned into a massive march that police estimated at 500,000 and said was one of the largest demonstrations in Los Angeles' history"

The momentum will continue to build Monday, April 10.

On that day, ordinary citizens, immigrant families, community activists, union members, clergy, elected officials, and business leaders will again come together for another round of events in major urban centers, and most importantly, smaller, swing districts.

They'll all be rallying behind the same cry:

It's time for Congress to do what Americans expect of their leaders - to work together in a bi-partisan fashion to thoughtfully fix our broken immigration system in a way that reaffirms and respects the American Dream, protects every worker and, importantly in a post-9/11 era, makes our country more secure.

Recognizing this reality in a breakthrough bipartisan vote, an important Senate committee took a major first step by approving an immigration reform bill that would create an earned path to citizenship for those already here working hard and paying taxes and establish a controlled, orderly process for new immigrants seeking work in the industries that need them the most.

And that means a more level playing field to raise wage and benefit standards and ensure all workers receive the same protections, not to mention enhancing our security by allowing our border patrol to focus on protecting Americans from those who might do us harm.

But this comprehensive proposal is only good news if more leaders in Washington this week realize there's no need to stick two fingers up in the air to determine which direction the wind is blowing, because the Bob Dylan song still applies:

"Come Senators, Congressmen, Please heed the call.
Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall.
For he that gets hurt, will be he who has stalled,
There's a battle outside and it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls...

For the times they are a-changin'.