Saturday, December 16, 2006

LTE: December 16, 2006

Des Moines Register

In the wake of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) roundup of “illegal” immigrants Tuesday December 12, 2006, The Des Moines Register reported that the starting wage at the Swift & Co’s Marshalltown facility is $11.50 per hour.

An interesting follow-up story would be to see how many unemployed and under-employed white central Iowans will apply for positions at the meat packing plant. More than likely Maid Rite will have an easier time filling staff positions at $8 per hour than will Swift & Co.

Since the advent of industrial scale meat processing in the 1870s, the packinghouse was traditionally the employer of first choice for new immigrants, Mexicans and Central Americans are only the latest. Perhaps an influx of Sudanese Muslims from Darfur will be the next?

But are “illegal” immigrants to blame for falling wages in the American workplace?

At this time in American history the nation is in a decades long rollback of union influence and workers’ rights. We hear the likes of Congressmen Tom Tancredo and Steve King denounce the waves of “illegal” immigration. Yet they, and their supporters, never call for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 or a federal ban on replacement workers, scabs, taking the jobs of striking union workers. Nor do politicians of either party propose a Marshall Plan to strengthen the economies of southern Mexico and Central America so the citizens of those countries stay home.

Yet the question remains: will the American consumer, used to sixty years of the cheapest food in the world, really be willing to pay more at the grocery store?

If the actions of the so-called Minuteman of Arizona were any indication: The average anti-immigrant American would rather sit on a lawn chair at the border and complain about illegals than compete in the workplace head-to-head, organize or lobby for changes in current anti-worker labor laws.

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