Saturday, November 30, 2019

Why no major US politician supports open borders, but the Koch Bros. do

Like many leftists, I thought we could have open borders without hurting American workers. Then a friend told me to study the meatpacking industry. A little of what I learned:

Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants | HRW:
For about forty years in the middle of the twentieth century, from the 1930s to the 1970s, meatpacking workers' pay and conditions improved. Master contracts covering the industry raised wages and safety standards. In the 1960s and 1970s, meatpacking workers' pay and conditions approximated those of auto, steel, and other industrial laborers who worked hard in their plants and through their unions to attain steady jobs with good wages and benefits. Meatpackers' wages remained substantially higher than the average manufacturing sector wage-15 percent higher in 1960, 19 percent higher in 1970, 17 percent higher in 1980.

...In 1983, meatpacking workers' pay fell below the average U.S. manufacturing wage for the first time. Since then, the decline has accelerated-15 percent lower in 1985, 18 percent lower in 1990, 24 percent lower in 2002.

Employers transformed the sector during the 1980s from one in which workers had secure organizations bargaining on their behalf to one where self-organization is a high-risk gauntlet for workers. Where they did not relocate, many companies shut down their plants, dismissed their long-time organized workers, then reopened with a nonunion immigrant workforce.

...As the traditional structure of the industry and its labor relations fragmented, employers drove many workers' wages down to a fraction of what they had been, with parallel worsening of benefits and working conditions. The frequency of meatpacking workplace injuries soared. Injury rates had been in line with other manufacturing sectors with trade union representation, but since the breakdown of national bargaining agreements meatpacking has become the most dangerous factory job in America, with injury rates more than twice the national average.
The 2006 Swift Raids | Center for Immigration Studies:
Government data show that the average wages of meatpackers in 2007 were 45 percent lower than in 1980, adjusted for inflation. 
We estimate that 23 percent of Swift’s production workers were illegal immigrants.

Worker pay has a small impact on consumer prices. Research by the USDA and others indicates that wages and benefits for production workers account for only 7 to 9 percent of retail meat prices. This means that if wages and benefits were increased by one-third, consumer prices would rise by 3 percent at most.
Meat Packing – The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union:
...companies actively exploit our broken immigration system, purposely recruiting and hiring undocumented immigrants to create a disposable workforce. These immigrants often don’t speak English and aren’t aware of labor laws or their rights on the job. It’s a vulnerable, easily-intimidated workforce too afraid to speak out when their paychecks aren’t right, when working conditions are not safe or even when there’s a potential problem with the food they’re producing. This has resulted in an industry where workers have less bargaining power, where it’s becoming harder and harder to earn enough to support families, and where it’s becoming less safe to work. 
US Construction and Meatpacking:
trades hired lower wage migrants to help build private homes at a time when union strength was eroding. 
Two things I've said about borders:

The utopian left loves names for goals like No Borders, No Prisons, and No Police. But if we want the working class to join us, we have to have names for the process of getting to those goals, which requires a transitional period of smarter borders, prisons, and police.

All borders are sites of tragedy. No one should suffer for crossing them, whether they’re seeking refuge or work or a better life where human rights are respected.

Possibly relevant: Bernie Sanders Has A Plan To Revive Labor Unions | HuffPost:
The senator tells HuffPost it's time to ban right-to-work laws and make it easier to unionize.

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