Apr 1, 2002
On March 27, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an undocumented worker who was fired for union activity was not eligible for back pay. This overturns a 1995 National Labor Relations Board decision that held that a worker without papers could get back pay, just like citizens and legal immigrants.
Jose Castro was a minimum-wage worker at Hoffman Plastics in Paramount, California where he worked as a plant blender. In 1989 he circulated union sign up cards to workers. The company fired him for this activity, and after all the legal procedures, it was determined he was wrongfully fired and was owed back pay.
There may be as many as seven million people working in the United States who don’t have legal papers. Companies like Hoffman Plastics are perfectly happy to make profits off the low paid labor of these workers, so low it’s often below the minimum wage.
Jose Castro was owed $67,000 in back pay for the more than six years that he was deprived of a job by being fired for union activity. This already says a lot about the conditions under which he was working – making only about $10,000 a year. But the Supreme Court now says, in effect, that he and people like him have no right to organize. And this gives a green light to corporations to hire more undocumented workers, pushing their wages even lower – and with them the wages of every other worker in the country.
The Supreme Court portrays itself as a defender of basic democratic rights. It ought to be honest and admit that their real work is to defend the profits of business.