May 8, 2017
In 1995, two hundred workers at a Case Farms plant in Morganton, North Carolina, struck for four days and voted to unionize. In response, Case Farms requested immigration documents from more than a hundred of them, threatened to get them deported, and eventually defeated the union. In 2008, workers again tried to organize a union and went on strike at a Case Farms plant in Winesburg, Ohio. The company suddenly discovered that seven members of the union organizing committee “might not be legally authorized to work in the United States” and fired them all, again breaking the strike.
Companies aren’t legally allowed to fire striking workers so brazenly – but because these workers were undocumented, Case Farms got away with it.
Case Farms knows exactly what it’s doing. In 1989, it began sending vans to recruit workers directly from churches that offered sanctuary to people fleeing the U.S.-backed death squads in Guatemala. The human-resources manager who organized this told a historian: “Guatemalans can’t go back home. They’re here as political refugees. If they go back home, they get shot.” This made them perfect workers for an extremely dangerous, low paying boss.
Once the Guatemalan workers started to organize, Case Farms turned to Burmese refugees. Then it recruited ethnic Nepalis expelled from the country of Bhutan. The more desperate the workers, the better for this company.
Case Farms might be an extreme example, but the bosses of this country all have an interest in keeping immigrant workers as desperate as possible, in denying them as many legal rights as possible. This lets the bosses exploit these workers to the extreme and use them as a battering ram against other workers.
The working class’ interest is the opposite: to demand that all workers in this country, no matter where they’re from or how they got here, have full legal rights, the same as everyone else.