While most Americans celebrated Labor Day as a nice occasion to enjoy the end of summer with friends and family, Union bosses and Democratic politicians used the occasion to attack Republicans and Tea Party conservatives. Vice President Biden addressed the AFL CIO in Ohio and said that organized labor is the only group “who can stop the barbarians at the gate.”
Not to be out done, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa. accused the Tea Party of waging a war on workers. After telling the president that the Teamsters “want one thing, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said, “President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march.”
If any of these labor leaders were serious about “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs,” or protecting the middle class, they would speak out against our current immigration policies that allow 8 million illegal aliens in the workforce while issuing over a million green cards a year. But today’s labor leaders are more concerned about following the Democratic Party’s agenda than helping American workers. Accordingly, almost all the major labor unions including the SEIU, AFL-CIO, and Teamsters all support amnesty for illegal aliens.
This was not always the case. Samuel Gompers, a Jewish Immigrant who headed the American Federation of Labor and is considered the father of the modern labor movement spoke out passionately in favor of reducing immigration. In 1921, he bemoaned that, "Every effort to enact immigration legislation must expect to meet a number of hostile forces and, in particular, two hostile forces of considerable strength. One of these is composed of corporation employers who desire to employ physical strength at the lowest possible wage and who prefer a rapidly revolving labor supply at low wages to a regular supply of American wage earners at fair wages. The other is composed of racial groups in the United States who oppose all restrictive legislation because they want the doors left open for an influx of their countrymen regardless of the menace to the people of their adopted country."
These words ring true today, except that organized labor has become a third “hostile force” against immigration control.
Gompers was not the only labor leader to oppose mass immigration.
For his leadership with the United Farm Workers in the 1960s and 70s, Cesar Chavez is both an icon to the labor movement and to radical Hispanic groups like La Raza. Pro-amnesty marchers still chant his slogan “Si Se Puede” and Barack Obama used the English translation “Yes We Can” during his presidential campaign. However, unlike his followers, Chavez put the interests of American workers before illegal aliens.
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.
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