As columnist Ruben Navarette acknowledged, “Cesar Chavez, a labor leader intent on protecting union membership, was as effective a surrogate for the INS as ever existed. Indeed, Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union he headed routinely reported, to the INS, for deportation, suspected illegal immigrants who served as strikebreakers or refused to unionize.”
As recently as 1986, The AFL-CIO’s Rudolph Oswald testified before the Senate that “Illegal workers take jobs away from American workers and they undermine U.S. wages and working conditions.”
What happened? As working conditions improved in America, many workers decided that they did not need to join unions, and private sector union membership declined from its peak of one third of the workforce in the 1940s to just above 7% today. Instead of focusing on helping that 7%, the unions looked to get new members by organizing public sector workers (which the AFL used to oppose) and illegal aliens.
AFL-CIO spokesman Kathy Roeder explained their shift away from immigration control, “We’re always looking for opportunities for people to join unions. That’s our number-one reason for working with immigrants.”
There’s another reason why union bosses support mass immigration. In 2006, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) acknowledged to National Journal that additional immigrant workers were “bad for blue-collars,” but that if the immigrants received citizenship, they would vote for the Democrats and “if [a Democratic Congress] were to significantly strengthen unions, then you would offset the negative effect on the income of workers.”
In other words, the Democratic Party and their accomplices in the labor movement are happy to support policies that undermine the wages of the blue collar workers who they purport to represent to help elect Democrats.
Unlike the labor bosses who push for amnesty, most actual labor union members are tough on immigration. According to a poll by Zogby and the Center for Immigration Studies, 63% of all union households believe that current immigration levels are too high, and only five percent believe it is too low. When asked whether they prefer giving illegal immigrants a “path to citizenship” or have stronger enforcement of our immigration laws to encourage them to go back home; union households chose enforcement over amnesty by a 2-1 margin.
While it would be naïve to believe that we could change the minds of the labor bosses, Republicans and others could make great gains with blue collar workers by exposing the disconnect between the union leadership and union members of immigration. The first steps would be a moratorium on worker visas combined with tough enforcement against employers of illegal aliens will free up millions of jobs for American workers—both union and non-union.
The vast majority of union members will embrace these policies, even if Barney Frank, Joe Biden, and James P. Hoffa do not.