Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"They're Overtaking Our City"

This quote is from an NPR story about Mexicans working in New Orleans. The quote is by a contractor who uses union labor.

There's a lot to unpack here. First, there's nothing like some old-fashioned racism. We want our city rebuilt, so long as it's by white people, Americans, or however we want to define ourselves as normative and others as alien.

Second, the contractor has one good point and that's the decline of union labor. Of course, there are larger issues involved here. If construction unions would get off their asses and organize some of these cities, make sure that companies would pay if they used non-union labor, and most importantly, consider migrant and illegal workers worth unionizing, they would have a lot stronger point to make. Because from talking to the immigrant workers, it sounds like some unionization could go a long way there. While they are making more money than they would ever make in Mexico or Honduras, they are subject to being cheated by their employers and to diseases from working and sleeping in the rot of New Orleans.

Third, the Latino workers pretty much said that they don't feel sorry for the union guys because they know the Americans won't work as hard as they will. I don't know what to say to that. They were talking about how some American workers were refusing to work unless provided with proper housing. The Latinos were saying that's no excuse not to work. And yeah, I guess that's true. If you want to feed your family more than the next person you will do so.

Of course what we need here is unionization of all American workers. Despite the Change to Win Coalition, unions are so far behind in organizing these types of workers. This could be a golden opportunity, but I don't see it happening. A spokesperson for the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance made the point that the enemy is not the foreign workers. The enemy is those who take advantage of those workers to mistreat all workers and drive wages down.