The change to a Latino workforce, predominately from Mexico, was gradual. The company’s officials have repeatedly assured the press that their Hispanic hiring practices were unintentional (which I find hard to believe). Safety standards seemed to deteriorate. The poultry industry is known for slippery floors and bitter cold working conditions. Crider took employee danger to another level with the accidental death of one of its employees in a forklift accident in 1997.
But what do you do when the change comes too fast? How do we add quality jobs to the national economy? Don’t get me wrong, I am not in favor of giving a shady company a get-out-of-jail-free pass. I do want to recommend that a strategic approach be taken to cleaning up the thousands of companies who are practicing a new form of slavery.
The black community temporarily benefited from the new jobs which were made available. Unfortunately, the company did not think through its transition. Under the current structure, these positions are an invitation to be permanently added to the bottom rung of the American work force. In the future, even nationalized employees will want something to look forward to - a career path or a personal road to prosperity.
The inevitable upward aspirations of future workers must be balanced with the company’s ability to turn a reasonable profit. Crider is experiencing a crisis and still needs 300 employees to return to normal output levels. Simply put, the transition is not working.
The economic impact of the Crider raid may be one of the reasons we don’t see heartier enforcement efforts on a national basis. After the raid, the company suddenly raised pay. Next, they sought replacement workers. Two hundred were hired through a state funded employment agency. The plant was ill-prepared for such a dramatic change of workers and black workers have not stuck. The company is experiencing high employee turnover and even threats of legal action from disgruntled new employees.
According to a Wall Street Journal story of January 17, 2007, the productivity of the plant has dropped by nearly 50%. The pincher movement of rising labor costs teamed with lower productivity may temporarily threaten this company’s profitability and perhaps its survival. The Journal says that Crider is now looking to Laotian Hmong workers from Minnesota and Wisconsin to fill in the blanks.
What does this mean for this company, the community, and the nation? It seems to me that immigration reform has to become a priority - not an afterthought. Pat answers and blanket amnesty approaches simply muddy the waters. Therefore, I recommend we close the borders and start the long process of Americanizing American businesses so that free enterprise can truly work.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.