Saturday, October 22, 2005

In my reporting, here's what I've learned about immigrant workers (and I mean specifically Latino workers)-
1)They do jobs that most Americans don't want to do, for longer than most Americans are willing to work, for less money than most Americans are willing to take.
2)They are mobile. It is easy for a contractor to hire an immigrant worker, put him on a job in Texas for a month and then move him to Mississippi for three. They often come with their own tents too.
3)Contractors like Latino workers especially because of how infrequently they are organized, i.e. unionized. Sometimes, advocacy groups organize them and demand better pay, but the rate of this is not often.
4)Contractors rave about Latino worker's work ethics. They never call in sick. They work tirelessly. And, many of them have a multitude of construction skills and can therefore do multiple jobs.

All that said, there is no doubt in my mind that local people are not getting hired enough. The reasons for that are surely numerous. One is, I'm sure, the low cost of immigrant labor. The fact is that this country could not survive, this society could not exist the way it does, without the millions of undocumented workers doing our dirty work. The cost to output ratio would be too lopsided without them, and we don't have a system in place to change that right now.
Because of this, and because of the continued threat of immigration authorities, and because of the innumerable unfair laws the government has in place that protect contractors hiring illegal workers but not the illegal workers themselves, the rate of abuse is sickening.
I have heard dozens of stories since the storm started of workers being asked to come here for a job with the promise of housing, working for a week and then literally being left in the street. I've heard stories of workers being promised a paycheck at the end of the day, only to find the contractor threatening to call immigration if they persist in asking for it. The list goes on too.
How do we solve this? I have no frickin' idea. All I know is, it's an interesting and messed up situation.
Our society needs immigrant workers, yet we refuse to treat them fairly. I suppose this system has gone back millenia. The Irish and Italians were treated this way upon their arrival here at the turn of the last century.
Africans are treated this way in Europe today. I suppose it will just be a question of time before Latinos finally infiltrate the upper levels of our society and put a halt to this way of life for their people.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

same thing with women these days...

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I HAVE NO PROBLEMS WITH IMMIGRANT WORKERS, AND I HAVE SEEN FIRST HAND THE HARD WORK PRODUCED. MY ONLY PROBLEM IS GOING TO A BUSINESS AND NOT BEING ABLE TO COMUNICATE. THE LANGUAGE BARRIER IS A PROBLEM. I DONT GO VISIT MY FAMILY IN MEXICO, AND EXPECT THEM TO UNDERSTAND ME, I HAVE SOMEONE FROM MY FAMILY WITH ME AT ALL TIMES TO TRANSLATE. ALSO THE FACT THAT IS BECOMING A REQUIRED SUBJECT IN SCHOOL FOR CHILDREN TO LEARN SPANISH. DO NOT FORCE MY CHILDREN TO LEARN A LANGUAGE, JUST BECOUSE OF THE GROWING IMIGRANTS. THAT IS WHY I AND SOME OTHERS HAVE A PROBLEM.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no idea how to solve the problem, either. But boy, am I thrilled that you're writing about this and getting the problem out there.

Keep up the excellent work.

6:33 AM  
Blogger dddragon said...

My prof told us about a movie titled A Day Without A Mexican - all the Hispanics disappear and whites are left to do all the things that are left undone. It's a lesson on how much we depend on immigrants for the tasks we don't want to do. Haven't seen it, I'll have to look it up.

9:15 AM  
Blogger mar-mar said...

Actually, there is already some good work being done to reduce the abuses being committed against undocumented workers. It is slow going. My dad works at the National Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs in Washington, which loosely affiliates member programs (including one in Biloxi, MS) which provide aid in the form of housing, early childhood education and health and safety programs to migrant families. Kind of a band-aid approach, sometimes--but their work in coalition with labor sometimes leads to surprisingly effective reforms. For those reading, the Biloxi group is called The Mississippi Delta Council for Farmworker Opportunities, and it was one of the few nonprofit org's left standing after Katrina, and it has been able to continue serving stranded and jobless farmworker families since the storm. (Mike and Josh, feel free to contact me if you want further info on them.)
My dad sent me the following message last month regarding their financial need during this crisis:

We are urging that checks be made out in the following manner:

"Joseph H. Wheatley Foundation"   On the memo line write: "Katrina
Farmworker Relief"

Mail checks to:

Joseph H. Wheatley Foundation
C/O Mississippi Delta Council for Farmworker Opportunities
1005 State Street
Clarksdale, MS 38614

--Mariya Strauss, Chicago, IL

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

are you really that ignorant to think that the reason your children are learning spanish in school is because of the growing immigrant population here? Did it ever occur to you that maybe just maybe they are learning it so they can compete in the global market of tomorrow and I don't think that it would hurt you either to broaden your mind and views. If you have family in mexico how is it your children don't speak or understand spanish? why aren't you passing down your own heritage to them?

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Central CA we have a lot of immigrant migrant workers, some legal some not. It is highly evident that they've the best work ethic I've ever seen.

It has taken many years here in CA, but many are much better protected in the workforce now thanks to people such as Cesar Chavez who worked diligently to improve working conditions for migrant workers.

It is sad to see the abuse of immigrants/migrant workers who are most often simply trying to provide
for the family.

Deb
Central California

8:00 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Things are slightly different up here in Minnesota...

I used to work in a restaurant, and the majority of the kitchen workers were Hispanic. They stole; they would work long hours, but they were working really slowly to stay on the clock longer; they didn't clean the kitchen/wash their hands thoroughly unless a manager were present and watching them.

These weren't rumors or prejudicing, I saw this with my own eyes. At the restaurant where I worked, there were some of the kindest, most honest people managing it. And the Hispanics (not just a few, and not all, but the vast majority of them) were incredibly dishonest.

I respect people until they disrespect me, and I've found most Hispanics to treat me only as a taxpayer who funds their welfare checks, or worse, as just a piece of ass to climb into bed with them and allow them to beat me into submission. Somehow, I don't think so.

Maybe it's just a regional thing, but these are my firsthand experiences, so forgive me if I don't act too generously with them.

9:04 PM  
Blogger R2K said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:26 AM  
Blogger R2K said...

My problem isnt with them as people,or them in the work force, it is them coming over illegally. That is what bugs me. Dont break the law. And also, eventually, wont it stop when the USA and mexico are the same? So we will average out with them (like osmosis) and then it will stop. Im not so certain I want to average out with mexico. Thats all. And by that I mean poverty, crime, overpopulation.

R2000
Bathroom Review

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe i am on a different planet, . its not all a stereo type, i have met some very wonderful hispanic people, but the majority are what cause the problems. its the same with caucasion. its not a race, color or gender, but based on raising, and personality. i have met as many wonderful white, black, brown, yellow, purple people..as i have met bad ones.

8:11 AM  
Blogger R2K said...

Certainly. Mexico isnt a crappy blace because of the race, its because it is a crappy place. There is severe corruption, poverty, and crime there.

Bathroom Review
R2000

7:07 AM  
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