|It's just not fair. They get all the cushy jobs|
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
I posted the piece I wrote on the sorry state of US dams on Facebook and pointed out that the wealth of three Americans was about three times greater than the cost of repairing our dams. The wealth of one American would cover it. Making dams, and millions of people safe is delayed or put off entirely because of “lack of funds” and labor power according to the official sources. The real reason as I pointed out in my article is not a lack of capital but its allocation. Which section of society owns it and determines how it’s used.
One response I received in the comments section was from Jim Johnson, a retired bookseller, I think he lives in Boston or New England somewhere. Johnson writes: “You can fix your infrastructure, or spend the bundle on illegal aliens. Take your pick.”
Assuming Johnson read my article I have to wonder what it is that drives a human being to think that a society in which one person possesses more than enough wealth ($64 billion) to finance a much needed national infrastructure repair project that is held up due to lack of funds, is a not a dysfunctional one, and instead blames the failure to come up with the funding, on people he refers to as “illegal aliens”. Is it racism pure and simple? Is it nationalism? Is Johnson so enamored with the geo-political boundaries of the modern nation state that he cannot abide by a human being crossing them without permission? Maybe it’s all these things or perhaps he’s just an idiot.
Leaving aside that I am an immigrant from Europe myself and would not have the nerve to claim any person with an ounce of indigenous blood doesn’t belong here, immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, don’t cost US society money, they add value, they contribute to our society. The undocumented among them, about half the US agricultural workforce, do this as the suffer daily discrimination and abuse due to their status and never know from one minute to the next if, as one immigration lawyer puts it, “…every little traffic ticket’s going to turn into detention.”
The attacks on immigrants by right wing politicians like Trump and his equals in Europe and England where I was last week, has emboldened racists and xenophobes leading to violent assaults and harassment. It has given Nazi’s and fascists more confidence. Also, many backward thinking workers have been fooled by these arguments. I have had to unfriend a few people on FB due to their forwarding of anti- immigration meme’s from Nazi, Fascist and white nationalist sites, sometimes not even knowing the source. I am unfortunately about to unfriend another. There are genuine questions and concerns around immigration and the massive influx of what are economic refugees or those fleeing western backed regional wars, but there’s no excuse for giving audience to racists and attacking immigrants as opposed to building class solidarity with them. Workers and the labor movement must have an independent position on this issue and one the unites across borders.
Trump’s climate of fear has reduced apprehensions on our southern border with Mexico by 47% as economic migrants are concerned about entering the US. But the xenophobic climate is having a disastrous affect on employment in the low paid difficult working environment that Latino’s from the south occupy. Bloomberg BusinessWeek points out in its latest issue how the crackdown on undocumented workers is causing a labor shortage. In one county in Kansas, the agricultural industry is suffering. For one feed yard in Haskell County, the nation’s fifth largest and the county’s largest employer, the issue is acute as 86% of its workers are Latino. 77% of the voters in Haskell county voted for Trump. I do not see these people rushing to fill those jobs or any of the other 375,000 agricultural jobs in the US that are filled by undocumented workers according to the Pew Research Center.
BusinessWeek quotes a 215 study claiming that the price of milk would rise to $6.40 a gallon if dairy farms were “deprived access to immigrant workers” and that many dairy operations would simply go under. In April and May of this year, California growers discarded portions of their harvest due to the immigration policy.
|Going after workers when the real criminals roam free.|
Trump’s executive order on immigration also called for the deportation of any undocumented immigrants that have been convicted, or simply charged with a criminal offense. Anyone who has had dealings with the cops in one way or another, especially on picket lines like I have, is aware that the person holding the pen decides on the nature of the offense. “The language is so broad that all the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US could be targets.” BW says. The reality is that despite many undocumented Eastern European and Irish works in the US, it is Latinos that will bear the brunt of the offensive. If you are brown skinned, indigenous looking, you are a target.
US workers are not looking to fill these jobs at the hog farm, meatpacking plant or feed lot, certainly not under the same conditions and wages. They are no threat to us, just the opposite. The undocumented are overwhelmingly working class and poor. They are forced north in search of the basic necessities of life and to feed their families. The Irish played the same role with regard to England and suffered the same racism and abuse as our Latino brothers and sisters from the south. The addition of these workers to the labor force makes us potentially stronger.
So working people and the labor movement must develop our own response to these issues rather than allowing big business, through the two political parties that it controls to set the ground rules. We must support immigrant rights domestically and not fall in to the skape-goating trap while at the same time assisting the growth and development of labor organizations in other counties where poverty is rife. Most people emigrate because they can’t feed their families we join with them to raise their standard of living and ours.
But even If these workers and peasants don't come here to the US, staying in their home countries will have basically the same effect. It will increase the supply of labor, further driving down wages (Labor’s price) and increasing the rate at which capital invests since there would be even greater profits to be made there. We see it today as Ford has just opted to send production to China as opposed to Mexico. Even engineers jobs can be exported to India for example as technology has made the transfer of documents faster and more efficient.
Obviously this would mean further job losses here in the U.S. So we cannot escape the affects of the conditions of those workers and peasants, no matter if they come here or stay in their home countries. The only real difference is that if they come here, the effects of this forced competition are more visible to us.