Center for Immigration Studies confirms immigrant employment depresses wages at meatpacking plants

A new study out yesterday from the Center for Immigration Studies confirms that immigrant labor keeps wages low in the meatpacking industry.  The primary thrust of the study by Jerry Krammer was illegal immigration labor, but it discusses the recruitment of refugees by companies like Swift & Co. and Tyson Foods after illegal immigration raids had initially reduced their workforce.

This is a paragraph from the conclusion:

Of course, meatpacking is intrinsically unpleasant and difficult and this has always has been the case. But there is no question that the jobs paid a great deal more a generation ago when the vast majority of workers were native-born. There is also no question that as the foreign born share of this workforce has increased, wages have fallen significantly. The desirability of any job is heavily dependent on compensation. If the United States adopted a different immigration policy, one that reduced the number of less-educated immigrants entering the country, then it is very possible that wages and benefits would increase and line speeds might slow as Swift and other companies adapted to a change in the supply of labor.

I urge you to read the whole report and consider the following points that jumped out at me.

* High turnover imposes severe stress on local communities and social service agencies. It makes transience and upheaval a constant problem for the communities. Many residents resent the price their community pays to have the Swift plant as a large part of their local economy.

We have written so extensively about disrupted communities that we have whole categories for some towns.  See our categories for Emporia, KS, and for Greeley/Grand Island.  Use our search function for Shelbyville, TN and Postville, IA.

For those of you wondering how meatpackers get refugees so quickly, they offer signing bonuses among other enticements.

* In addition to pay increases, Swift introduced a number of methods to attract workers after the raids. The company paid bonuses to new employees, and to current employees who recruited others. It also advertised heavily, paid relocation expenses, and provided daily transportation from distant population centers.

And this is for all the do-gooders bringing refugees into the country and signing them up with meatpackers.

*All the Swift plants began drawing more refugees — especially from Burma and several African countries — who had been living elsewhere in the United States. These most recent refugees have allowed Swift and other meat processors to sustain working conditions not tolerable to many U.S.-born workers.

The CIS report reminded me of a post I did last May in which I speculated that the US State Department/Health and Human Services and the volags were acting as employment agencies for big meatpackers.

The US State Department is helping big companies by bringing cheap LEGAL labor through the refugee program couched as humanitarian work. Clinton was heavily involved in importing what amounts to slave labor all to help the meatpackers not have to pay decent wages to American citizens. Church groups are helping too!

This is what led me to that conclusion from a 2001 report in a publication called Agribusiness Examiner.   

“And IBP’s [Tyson Food bought IBP in 2002] good fortune didn’t end there,” Limbacher continues, “turns out the Clinton administration’s Bosnian refugee resettlement efforts also helped to keep labor costs down. Since 1995, for instance, the town of Waterloo, Iowa — population 65,000 – has been swamped with 6,000 Bosnian refugees, many of whom wound up working for the No. 1 local employer, IBP.”

Until recently, IBP’s 2,000-strong Waterloo workforce was one-third Bosnian. Most refugee families that settle there have a family member who at one time or another worked for the meatpacking giant. In fact, the meatpacking industry has a history of recruiting on the ground in Yugoslavia. But during the Clinton years, companies like IBP haven’t had to travel that far.

Since 1995, the Clinton INS has resettled over 80,000 Balkan refugees, mainly Bosnian Muslims, primarily in America’s Midwest. The immigrant deluge has earned Iowa the distinction of being the only state in the union with its own refugee bureau.

Come to think of it, wasn’t Lavinia (whoop-de-do) Limon of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Bill Clinton’s head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in those years?   The door doth revolve.

And, wasn’t there some big scandal with the Clinton’s and Tyson Foods some years ago?  I’m sure whatever it was, it benefited the poor downtrodden immigrant workers.

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