Sunday, July 6, 2008

In It Together

Today's NYT includes a story about a growing rift between hard-line Republican anti-immigrant lawmakers (such as those in AZ's legislature) and Republican employers whose businesses are threatened by employer sanctions and worksite raids.

Raids can and do remove experienced senior low-wage employees and cripple business' ability to meet contracted production requirements. Sanctions aimed at established employers who are trying to comply should be aimed at scofflaw employers, instead, say industry lobbyists.

Well, here's a thought. Now is the time for Democrats, whose votes are essential to moderate Pearce-style employer sanctions, to demand safe workplaces, employer-provided safety equipment, healthcare, and a living wage for all employees in exchange for backing off employer sanctions and instituting a national guestworker program.

We should be doing these things anyway. And don't tell me "we" can't afford them. Let's just reallocate some of the profits now raked off by the top 1% of employees to fairly reimburse the lower 99%.

Stepping up to demand a just, safe, and fair workplace would bring Democrats in line with the legitimate needs of millions of blue-collar workers nationally. At the same time, it would force scofflaw employers to compete fairly with those who do try to observe the law. And not least, it would remove the incentive to hire immigrants illegally. If all workers are paid a living wage and all employers are required to provide safe workspaces, there's no profit in hiring undocumented workers and no way to undercut the jobs of native-born Americans.

I support a guestworker program, but only if it comes with certain conditions. One, it must mandate a living wage, healthcare, safe working conditions, paid leave, and some kind of retirement pay-in. Those aren't luxuries, as the word "benefit" so propagandistically implies. Those are necessities and furthermore, they have been earned by all workers, including the lowest paid. Two, it must tie into renegotiated NAFTAs and CAFTAs and the like, to level the global working field for everyone.

We can get smart and make these demands. Or, we can continue to be buffaloed by the whines of big business and the cons of Bush Republicans and watch our jobs float away to Bombay and what's left of the great American middle class become the majority working poor.


Phred said...

In addition to your criteria for a guest worker program, we must demand that the visas be EMPLOYMENT based, not EMPLOYER based. All previous efforts at such a temporary work visa have tied employees to a particular employer and have left the gates wide open to unregulated exploitation of the workers. Yes, Virginia, slavery does indeed still exist.

PICO said...

Good comment. Thank you.
Slavery surely does exist in the USA, especially in agriculture and domestic service and sex. What else is notable for its slavery practices?