A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

01 May 2007

May Day

And pay day was yesterday. The two are linked.

The official Day of Mourning, for workers whose deaths were apparently neccesary to advance the growth of the economy, was Saturday.

I'm not asking you to run out and donate money to something, or to make a comittment to something, or believe in something.

Just today, look at someone you see in the hall all the time. Say "hi" to the silent woman who cleans your office. Smile to the kid who hands you your McBurger. And say "thanks".

Because really, it's all about respect. Most workers will stick around if they get more respect from management than slaves or prisoners.

Because that's what management wants. Consider the people who are rushing to hire chain gang labour wherever human rights law is weak enough to allow such abuse. Consider the fine state of Colorado, home of the Jesus industry in the USA and thus also one of the finest deposits of pure irony around. No need to work for it, it lies right on the surface.

Colorado "declared war" on illegal immigration (what the hell is it that in America, the solution is always another damn "war on" something?). So given that the whole country is screaming for labour, and that many states weren't stupid enough to actively declare war on their agricultural workforce, there was speculation that 40 percent of the workforce might by-pass the state. The farmers complained that they were $#!7 out of luck when it came to harvest time.

The answer?

A program someone should have called "Inside-Out"

The program has made headlines well beyond Colorado, and not because of the proposal to use prison labor. Rather, it's the scheme's easy equivalence between undocumented workers and U.S. citizens who've been convicted of crimes and stripped of their rights. Sure, nativists long have tried to persuade us that crossing the border without papers is equivalent to committing a capital crime. But the fact that a group of Colorado farmers has turned to prisoners to meet labor needs says a whole lot about why so many U.S. employers prefer illegal immigrant labor in the first place — it's cheap, dependable yet impermanent, and, well, they have no rights either.
--Gregory Rodriguez in the LA Times

So on May Day, look that working slob in the eye, and think for a minute about who he or she is.

A little respect. That's all.

Oh--and here's a better song, from the Pretenders.


At 1:28 a.m., Anonymous archie said...

The silly thing is that the big greedy money-grubbing companies could well succeed in labour relations if they just accorded those downtrodden underpaid workers a little respect.

But then of course, those little, of-no-account people may think they were better than slaves.

At 2:13 a.m., Anonymous raincoaster said...

Bravo! Excellent post!

Has Colorado noticed that it is bordered only by other American states?

Also, we've got exactly the same issue in Canada, without the prison labour. Farmers can't find people willing to put up with industry practices that have seen multiple convictions for slavery-related offences within the past few years. Now they're whining in the newspapers that they can't get help at what they're willing to pay.

Well boys, you know how to fix that, don't you?

At 8:40 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

It seems sometimes as if company management feels that when you accord the workers a little respect, you're "giving in" somehow.

In our own orchard-heavy region the growers were talking about importing braseros from Mexico last year.

I talked to a kid from Quebec who'd come here specifically to harvest. He and his girlfriend were sleeping in a roadside ditch for a week because the farmer did not provide quarters, and refused to let the workers pitch tents on his land.

He too appeared to be having trouble getting the harvest in ...

At 10:28 a.m., Anonymous raincoaster said...

Not enough. Ain't you got kerosine there?


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