[Marxism] Do Latino immigrants drive down wages (was:"RE:immigration issues")

dwalters at marxists.org dwalters at marxists.org
Thu Apr 20 21:02:08 MDT 2006

Surplus labor drives down wages/labor that is dear drives them up. Well, a
truism actually. But what does it mean *politically*?

Wages in some industries have gone down, as Joaquín pointed out, primarily do to
the failureo the labor movement to unionize workers and allow whole industries
to be deunionized or for non-union labor to occupy into the double-digits a
percentage of formally unionized workers.

Some argue, of course, that lower wages are due to illegal immigrant labor.
First, "illegal" immigrant labor is only manifest in a major way in *some*
industries: meat packing, construction; janitorial service and it's related
field: industrial demolition, hazerdous waster cleanup and debris clearing, and
agricultural. Wages have gone down in ALL industries including those that
exclude any immigrant labor because of langauge issues or where immigrant labor
as such is veritually zero.

Do the bosses *use* immigrant labor (undocumented or documented) as ways of
trying to displace unionized workers or workers making a relatively decent
income? Of course they do. But it's only by the weakness or inability of unions
to fight back that this occurs in the first place. Meatpacking in the US in
1970s and 80s was basically unionized, about 70% if I remember those
statistics. The replacement of the mostly Black and white work force in
unionized meat packing by immigrant labor, much of it undocumented, didn't
occur until *after* the unions were smashed. The late 1980s battle around P9 in
Austin, MN., was part of this war. Most of the opening of these large meat
packing factories in Liberty, Kansas or outside of Omaha, Nebraska, staffed
largly by Latino workers making around $12/hour is the *result* of the failure
of the unions to protect heir jobs and protect their membership. Please note
that the UFCW has major organizing drives at many of these plants.

There was a fascinating essay on immigrant labor in the NY construction industry
posted here about 1 year ago by a person whose last name is Bulter. It shows how
the bosses try to play off secitons of the working class against each other but
it shows too how immigrant workers, documented and undocumented, work to form
their own caucuses and unions to fight against the bosses and the racist Anglo
dominated unions that exclude them.

There is a point that some of the racist anti-immigrant coalitions have made
that is very true: American employers pay too low. This is the reason they say
that "American" workers won't take some jobs. This is true, also, in many ways.
But the only way to get employers to pay more is through class struggle in
general and unionization specifically. They fall short, of course, of endorsing
this view. But undocumented workers will continue to come to the US even if
there are high rates of unemployment among undocumented and all jobs paid in
the US were paying a living wage. They will come to escape the grinding poverty
created by imperialist domination of their country. Until that ends, immigration
as a solution to their poverty will never go away.

David Walters

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