Editor: We occasionally post comments or guest posts from readers that are so informative that we don’t want them lost where comments are normally posted. This is from a reader answering my perennial question about how it came to be that good paying American jobs in the meatpacking industry have now become low paying jobs for immigrants and refugees.
Before you read what Deena has to say, check out a post I wrote in 2008 about how President Bill Clinton brought tens of thousands of mostly Muslim Bosnians in to the US to do meatpacking jobs in Iowa in the mid-1990s (with the help of Lavinia Limon who was Bill Clinton’s director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement). The business model allows BIG MEAT (or LOL! BIG YOGURT) to pay low wages which are then supplemented by welfare that you pay for!
The US State Department is acting as a head-hunter for big business, so forget about the humanitarian mumbo-jumbo they are trying to sell!
You asked if slaughterhouse work used to be a good job. It did; and, in fact, was heavily unionized until sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s, I believe.
It had its own union (Amalgamated Meat Cutters (AMC)) and the former president of the Iowa AFL-CIO back when I worked for the national AFL-CIO came out of this union. This work was among the best in pay and benefits in the US along with auto work because basically the entire industry was unionized; and like in the UAW, workers spent a lifetime in the trade.
It ended when the market was flooded by foreign workers – largely illegal. The decent paying companies – and most then fell into this category – were unable to compete with low-paid-unskilled-foreign-worker-filled companies which sprang up. The pay is now about 55% of what it was then. Forget benefits.
The union merged into what is now known as the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW), which largely represents retail workers. The ‘meat cutters’ of today are more likely to cut and package large sections of pre-cut meat into individual packages for purchase by shoppers in local grocery stores like Kroger where I live.
The actual slaughterhouse industry has high turnover – some logging over 100% in a year. The work is hard on the body and dangerous, which is why the wages used to be reasonably high. I’m sure OSHA still requires the posting of health and safety rules but I doubt if most of the workers can even read them, let alone care about them.
Back when Bush was staging company raids, the first things a company would do after losing its illegal workers to a raid were to raise wages to attract legal workers to this hard, dirty work and to offer bonuses to workers who could bring in new workers, proving that this was work that US workers would do, just not for the wages and conditions that prevailed in the plants where illegal workers set the standards. [And where legal refugees are now hired at those low wages—ed]
Construction work has largely followed slaughterhouse work.
The AFL-CIO used to be against massive immigration because of what I just outlined: the law of supply and demand in which large numbers of workers who will work for low wages under bad conditions drive down wages for the remaining ones who stay and force those who can’t or won’t work for these wages out of the field. It changed after Sweeney-Trumka came in 1996, bringing several operatives from the Democratic Party.
Recently the AFL-CIO has toed the Democratic Party’s line on immigration – more and faster – and has paid the price.
Their idea seems to be that they can organize these low wage workers, but it doesn’t work out that way. The union numbers keep decreasing. SEIU*** has enjoyed some success but they are organizing workers at low wages who can be easily replaced. If necessary, companies like WalMart simply subcontract out work like janitorial work to companies who will hire illegal workers on the cheap.
Construction companies hire subcontractors for wall boarding, painting, and roofing. Young men who would like a start in construction don’t get hired at these entry level jobs and so don’t make their way up the ladder.
The loss of such careers as meatpacking and construction to non-college educated men is a shame and a disaster.
The MSM made much of women voting for Trump. I’d be willing to bet that many non-college educated women would be far happier for their husbands still to be able to get those better paying jobs so that they didn’t have to work full-time and could spend more time at home when the kids are small.
***See our post over the weekend where SEIU is attempting to organize Rohingya refugees.
For more comments worth noting and guest posts, click here.
Sessions photo! please read this!
Senator Jeff Sessions has been a stalwart in fighting for American workers in the US Senate and tomorrow the Left will try to destroy him!