Contributed by Joel Wells
American employers face almost no risk when hiring undocumented workers and pocket higher profits when they do.
This affects the economy of every state in the nation, including Iowa. According to the Pew Research Center report published 3 November 2016, there are an estimated 40,000 undocumented workers in Iowa. According to the Austin Business Journal 6 November 2017, Texas is home to about 1.65 million undocumented immigrants. People working below minimum wage affect all of us, especially those in direct economic competition– they have the most to lose.
Undocumented workers are being actively recruited by US companies who face minimal or non-existent penalties for circumventing fair wage laws and safety standards, driving a “race to the bottom.” The loser is the American worker, forced to labor below a living wage without a culture of safety or job protection. But the Republican leadership doesn’t care about working Americans; they only care about protecting plutocrats and lining their own pockets.
Undocumented workers are used as slave labor in a slave economy. They have no enforceable rights, living conditions are often deplorable, employers can intimidate them without repercussion and force them to work in unsafe conditions. These workers cannot object if they are paid starvation wages– if they get paid– and face termination without cause. They have no protection from industrial predators.
Meanwhile those who employ them know they are not citizens and also know they face no penalties for hiring them. Let me repeat: there is no incentive not to hire them. If employers were penalized adequately (or at all) these workers would not be here. This is why in the United States there are over 11 million undocumented workers. California alone has more than 2 million farm laborers yet 1.5 million are undocumented. This article appeared in Bloomberg on March 2rd, 2018:
“Of the state’s more than 2 million farm laborers, 1.5 million are undocumented, according to Tom Nassif, President of the Western Growers Association, a 92-year-old industry group representing farmers in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Although Nassif and the association have supported Trump since the early days of his campaign, he says the raids and decades-old immigration policy for farm workers are harming the industry and state economy.”
If people are angry at undocumented workers, that anger is misdirected. Undocumented workers would not be here if they did not have a job! The anger should be directed at those that hire them, fueling the illegal migration of cut price labor by cut throat, antilabor conglomerates. If the explosion of undocumented workers needs to be stopped, stop employers from hiring them. There is no need for a wall! If there was a law that treated these employers the same as drug dealers there would be no undocumented workers in the US. Put the offending employers in jail for a substantial period of time and confiscate their businesses. We need to stop rewarding practices that hurt us.
Undocumented workers are people, too. As humans with innate dignity, they deserve the chance to work for an honest wage and the opportunity to prove their merit, just like those of us born north of the Rio Grande. Minimum federally enforced wages should be established for the skill, trade, experience, and environment appropriately. Stronger worker safety, workers’ rights, and employment standards as required by the United States Department of Labor need to be strengthened, implemented, and enforced.
Everyone should play by the rules, not just the American worker. Those that cheat should be brought to justice.
Joel Wells is a progressive Democrat and economic conservative. He obtained a PhD from the University of Iowa and worked at Kirkwood Community College teaching and as a program coordinator in industrial technology for 25 years. He spent 14 years teaching and working in the Middle East. He is now semi-retired working as a mechanical integrity consultant for companies in the United States.