A new report raises concerns of exploitation of Latino workers by egregious employers taking advantage of our broken immigration system.
The report was conducted by the immigrant rights advocacy group National Council of La Raza and cites data from academic studies, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census and others. It finds, among other things, that the Latino occupation fatality rate was 21.1 percent higher than white workers and 17.9 percent higher than black workers in 2007.
You can read the NCLR study here.
We touched on some of these same findings in our series, Cruelest Cuts, and how the poultry industry ignored injured workers at its plants to help boost profits. Many of the victims were illegal immigrants too afraid to complain.
Anyone familiar with this blog knows that the NCLR is a staunch advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. So it should come as no surprise that the group maintains that many of these problems would not be as great if many of these workers could be legalized and therefore unfraid to join unions built to protect them, and feel safe to speak out against exploitation.
It’s an argument many advocates are making.
But there is also an argument that increased enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws would produce similar results.
In January 2007, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Smithfield Pork plant in Tarheel. Months later ICE followed up with additional arrests of workers and many others fled.
According to a report by the pro-enforcement Center for Immigration Studies, written by former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jerry Kammer, the raid turned out to be a key factor in the December 2008 vote to unionize the plant.
You can read the CIS study here.
Similar working conditions criticized by the NCLR study had been being reported for years at the Tarheel plant, the world’s largest pork plant. Yet, for 16 years, organizers were unsuccessful in starting a union.
Unions are not the savior, however. Some of the plants we reported on in Cruelest Cuts are also unionized. In plants with many illegal immigrant workers, union membership is down and therefore so is the union's influence and ability to demand better working conditions.
Advocates like NCLR, as well as many economists, say America needs more additional immigrant workers. But that argument is going to be difficult to make in today's economy with so many Americans out of work.
Photo: JOHN D. SIMMONS - email@example.com