Friday, June 15, 2007

Immigration Raid On Del Monte Raises Disturbing Issues

This past week's illegal immigration raid on Del Monte fresh Produce in Portland, Oregon that netted 167 illegal alien workers has raised many disturbing issues. Not only do such raids rip families apart, which was a concern that was echoed by Portland Mayor Tom Potter as well as the Roman Cathoilc Archbishop John G. Vlasny, and have a serious humanitarian consequence, but also raises concern's how some companies seek to profit off a low cost labor supply.

This Del Monte business has had a record of worker safety issues including threats and firing of workers who complained about unsafe working conditions. But with a large workforce of low paid Hispanic workers, this business profits from the worst of old time American capitalist traditions, using a cheap workforce of persons of color to exploit for profits.

This nation has had a long tradition of some capitalists becoming wealthy by first bringing slaves to America to work in the cotton and tobacco industry, then later bringing Chinese to work on the railroads and exploiting poor Irish who escaped the Potato Famine over in Ireland as well. Now Hispanic immigrants become the latest exploited workforce. Paid low wages and working in miserable conditions, they provide low cost groceries and food products to the American public, yet are disliked by many Americans despite their hard work to make food affordable. Many Americans would be very unhappy if their food would cost two or three times as much without this cheap workforce, yet continue to exhibit dislike for these poor immigrant workers. And even unions are unhappy at the way the use of low cost migrant workers continues to drive down wages.

There is no easy answers to these many problems. But poor immigrants come to the U.S. partially as a result of the failure of NAFTA which drove down farm income in Mexico and South America and lead to a wave of economic refugees seeking work in the U.S. American capitalism is no great miracle. It often has profited from exploiting some race or group to make a few very wealthy, but often leaving many workers in some exploied condition. Capitalism needs to never lose a human face and to bring economic well being to all, and not just a few.


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