Jul 30, 2001
On July 20 a presidential task force headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft produced a one page memo for Bush proposing a change for some of the immigrants who are living and working in this country – allowing them to “regularize” their status. The proposal would allow about one million Mexicans employed in farm work, health care and meat packing to become “guest workers,” as well as allowing many new immigrants from Mexico to enter the country as guest workers. The task force has already met with a similar committee advising the Mexican president.
Bush himself said what’s behind the proposal: “We ought to make it easier for people who want to employ somebody, who are looking for workers, to be able to hire people who want to work.” That is – people who are forced to work cheaply while wearing a gag.
Bush’s proposal would build on the existing “guest worker” programs. The Florida sugar cane crop, for example, until recently was largely harvested by workers from Jamaica. IBP, the biggest meat packing company in the United States, goes to a village in Mexico and sends up hundreds of workers to labor in one of its packing houses in the U.S., with the approval of both governments.
In fact, the “guest worker” program is nothing but another name for slave labor. Guest workers cannot become citizens. They have no democratic rights. They are not allowed to quit employers and get hired elsewhere. If they voice a complaint over their working conditions, they quickly find themselves on a bus going home.
Today there are an estimated seven to eight million people in the country without legal papers. When workers come from desperately poor countries, the U.S. minimum wage seems good compared to what they received at home. But what keeps workers accepting this situation is their complete and toal lack of legal rights.
That’s obviously why the corporations want to keep them in this half-legal situation from which there is no escape. This gives the corporations a low-paid work force with which to put pressure on the wages of everyone else.
Bush pretends that this program may eventually open up prospects for SOME of the workers here without papers to legalize their situation. That’s nothing but a false hope for MOST.
The millions of workers who are in this country without papers are part of the working class. Their labor contributes to the running of this country. Give them full rights of citizenship immediately!
The working class movement at its best and its strongest always fought for the full extension of democratic rights to immigrant workers. It was a protection for immigrants and native workers, both at the same time.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) said it a long time ago: One big union of all the workers, from all countries, of all races, of all industries, of all skills.
Either the working class stands together – or it falls divided.