Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 5:51 AM
Whenever friends parrot the cliché about Americans being too proud to do menial jobs, I cite the coal miners of West Virginia or the lumberjacks of Wisconsin to disabuse them of their ignorance. It never works.
Of course, they can be forgiven their ignorance given the prevailing narrative about the refusal of Americans to do menial jobs being the proximate cause of this country’s illegal-immigration problem.
Never mind that this problem has always had far more to do with how much employers are willing to pay than with how much Americans are willing to work. What’s more, companies like Amazon demonstrate that a modest wage and good working conditions will suffice to get (even mostly White) Americans to do the kind of menial, physically demanding work that would give any migrant worker pause. (For example, workers at Amazon’s oxymoronically named “fulfillment centers” are usually on their feet picking, fetching and stacking 12 hours a day for pay that starts around $10.50 an hour.)
But I am heartened that immigration reform is going to be to Obama’s second term what healthcare reform was to his first. Because, in addition to sealing the border and providing a pathway to citizenship for all illegal immigrants, comprehensive immigration reform will surely include provisions that make it prohibitive for employers to continue employing (i.e., exploiting) undocumented workers.
More to the point, immigration reform will eradicate this country’s black (or should that be brown) market for labor. It will then be a lot easier even for menial workers to unionize and negotiate for all of the benefits so many of us professional workers take for granted.
Incidentally, concomitant with immigration reform should be a long-overdue cost-of-living increase in, as well as comprehensive enforcement of, the minimum wage.
In which case, the narrative about Americans being too proud to do menial jobs would be exposed as nothing more than the stereotyping half-truth it has always been.
Indeed, I have no doubt that Rednecks in Appalachia would be just as willing as Wetbacks in California to pick crops, do janitorial/maid service, or any other menial job as long as they were guaranteed a modest wage and decent working conditions – especially now that they can rely on Obamacare for health coverage. Except that you can give (American-born) Negroes all that and a parasol, and they still won’t work in the fields picking anything the way our folks once picked cotton; and I don’t blame them.