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4/23/06


 

THE RAPE OF THE
WORKING CLASS

By David Podvin

Illegal immigration is a means by which corporations savage America’s working class. Although the media conglomerates have misrepresented the undocumented worker influx as primarily being a racial issue, it is actually an economic bludgeon. Business interests encourage illegal immigration for the purposes of depressing wages and subverting workplace safety laws. The Wall Street brokerage firm Bear Stearns uses the word “systematic” when describing the replacement of lower income American wage earners with illegal aliens, noting management prefers to employ help that is not documented because laborers who lack legal standing are more easily exploited.

Corporate concubine George W. Bush has assisted business by reducing border security while coddling companies that subject undocumented employees to inhumane conditions. Despite the recent election year charade that involved arresting a few managers at IFCO Systems, there has been a ninety percent drop in illegal immigration-related employer arrests since 2000. Employment laws that were occasionally enforced by Bill Clinton are almost never enforced by Bush.

Just as both major political parties support free trade agreements that place American workers into untenable competition against foreign slave labor, the bipartisan establishment also facilitates the illegal immigration that enables management to pay substandard wages. The stated positions of the parties differ greatly, but on mega-money issues involving war and commerce the Fortune 500 ultimately gets its way. Political posturing notwithstanding, many congressional Democrats and all congressional Republicans refuse to deny business the peonage it so cherishes.

Corporate America opposed twentieth century labor reforms and has never relinquished its goal of exploiting employees with impunity. Companies can maximize profits only when their workers are unwilling to complain about being abused, so Mexican migrants are most useful in driving down wages while they are fearful of law enforcement. As illegal aliens become documented and gain the rights that accompany citizenship, the servant class must be restocked with new arrivals.

It is a tribute to the political sophistication of the monied elite that employers can brazenly violate labor laws without incurring liberal wrath. In almost any context, a brutal assault on the working class would provoke vigilant opposition from progressives. However, the business community has learned the disarming effect of playing the race card, and now the mainstream media equates opposing illegal immigration with fostering ethnic bigotry. Business is reaping the windfall profits of camouflaging corporate predation as inclusiveness.

This Machiavellian construct represents a quantum public relations leap forward for the reprobates of Wall Street. Gone are the days when ham handed businesspeople justified gouging American workers by claiming that laborers were merely insignificant peons. As the story now goes, American workers must be gouged due to humanitarian regard for Third World migrants. It is the siren song that seduces the keepers of the multicultural flame.

Yet the operative color in the illegal immigration debate is not brown…it is green. American workers of all races are being economically raped by profiteers. In Southern California, which is the epicenter of illegal immigration, African Americans were once a significant presence in the construction industry. Today black participation in that sector is scant because contractors prefer sub-minimum wage foreign hirelings.

The same phenomenon holds true for the Hispanic American citizens who were heavily involved in the manual trades. Jobs that were once working class are now subsistence level and are held either by undocumented workers or by desperate Americans compelled to accept artificially low wages. This situation exists in industries ranging from textiles to agriculture to meatpacking. On April 10, chicken processing conglomerate Tyson Foods had to close numerous plants because its predominantly illegal alien workforce was attending immigration rallies. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, undocumented workers currently hold over seven million American jobs. Most of the employees they have displaced are females and minorities, the very people liberals have sworn to protect.

The argument made by corporate sophists is that there are some jobs Americans refuse to do. Left unsaid is that those jobs offer noncompetitive wages or provide insufferable working conditions or both. The problem is solved by requiring business to honor market forces and obey the law. The grape grower who refuses to pay the going rate should witness his crops rot in the field. The manufacturer who creates a treacherous workplace should be incarcerated. Absent accountability, employers have found that hiring illegal aliens provides carte blanche to circumvent labor standards.

There are many victims in the illegal immigration saga, foremost among them blue collar American workers who are besieged from all sides. The right wing disdainfully views them as mere fodder for the corporate juggernaut. The left wing empathizes with employees’ angst while sacrificing their interests at the altar of political correctness. Trapped in a thirty-five year trend of falling real wages, working class Americans are steadily losing ground. To make matters worse, whenever workers bemoan the pernicious effects of illegal immigration they are smeared as being nativist, as though demanding a fair wage in exchange for hard work somehow reveals malice.

Mexican migrants are also victims. Business lures them here so they can be cheated and used as scapegoats. Undocumented workers are often denied the pay they have earned, subjected to racial animus, housed in squalid conditions, and physically abused. When persecuted they have no recourse, which makes them the ideal employees. While the corporatists and their dupes promote illegal immigration as being some sort of civil rights struggle, they have never advocated a plan insuring that everyone who is working in America will be protected by law. The serial amnesties (of which McCain-Kennedy is the most recent) merely guarantee that corporations can perpetually victimize undocumented laborers.

The Democratic Party is another victim, albeit in a poetically just way. The party’s decline has coincided with its ongoing betrayal of the working class. Democrats began their excruciating electoral descent precisely at the moment they decided to embrace centrist economic policies, which is a euphemism for romancing the mercantile aristocracy. The erstwhile champions of the underdog should be assailing the corporate brigands who exploit workers. Holding management accountable is what a labor party does, but for decades the United States has been without a relevant labor party.

The winners in the illegal immigration struggle are major corporations and their favorite political acolytes. For robber barons the status quo provides an ideal scenario in which they bleed their employees while generating societal strife that can be demagogued by Republican politicians. The GOP cannot win when Americans vote based on economic self-interest, so it is essential that the electorate vote its resentments. By destroying this nation’s working class and benefiting politically from the fallout, Corporate America is achieving a tour de force of malevolence.

Meanwhile, liberals are achieving a tour de force of irrelevance. If modern liberalism means anything more than hating Bush it must stand for economic and social justice. Working Americans deserve to have their living standards protected. Mexican migrants deserve to be treated as human beings. Allowing people into this country illegally assures that neither objective will be attained as business ruthlessly exploits one group to dispossess the other.

Illegal immigration must be stopped. It can be stopped by completely closing the border or it can be stopped by completely opening the border. It can be stopped by implementing guest worker programs or it can be stopped by enforcing labor laws. The methodology is less relevant than the result. The imperative is that all employees must be here legally to insure they are vested with formal protections. Only then can corporatists be defeated in their never-ending war against the American working class.

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