Today's history lesson: Immigrants beware.
Today, Mexican immigrant workers are dying at a rate of one per day. They have an 80% greater chance of dying than native-born Americans, even when doing the same job. Often this is due to negligence in safety and training on the part of employers, though the article says that the strong Mexican work ethic carries part of the blame.
This is another example of history repeating. We're all aware of the fact that black slaves were sometimes worked to death, but other populations have seen similar working conditions. My old high school history teacher once related the story of dock workers in a busy port. When rolling cargo off ships and down ramps, sometimes large and heavy objects had to be moved. When this happened, black slaves would be put at the high end, pulling on the cargo, and Irishmen would be put on the low end, pushing it so it didn't move too quickly. At the time, there was a nearly endless supply of Irish immigrants, so dockmasters had little trouble finding replacements for those, uh, taken out of the workforce. On the other hand, slaves were actually considered to take a real investment of time and money, and therefore were more valuable.
Slavery was not really practiced in the West, per se, although many are aware of Chinese immigrants who were placed in deadly situations while building railroads and other great works during the 19th century (as we all know because of Kung Fu and other movies). Today, businesses merely have another workforce to exploit. They seem to be extremely happy to use Mexicans, who, according to a recent article I read that talked about cheap labor being used at the ski resorts of Colorado, are fairly docile and submissive when it comes to work environments. They tend to not complain about dangerous situations if they feel it will get them in any amount of trouble. That's a pretty nasty combination.
(Unfortunately, I can't remember where I read that article. It may have been something in the New Yorker, since I read a few of them when I went to Kentucky.)
Some workplace inspectors have said that even illegal immigrants have the same rights to workplace safety as Americans do, although this seems to only be loosely enforced and open to interpretation. Michael Moore made a story about that for The Awful Truth about illegal immigrant workers attempting to unionize at a hotel in Minneapolis. I guess I don't know how the story ultimately ended up, but I believe the hotel owner was fined or something for breaking up a meeting the workers were having.
Anyway, I'm sure it's something that will get worse before it gets better.Posted by mike at March 13, 2004 08:28 PM | Corporations , Michael Moore , Money , Politics | TrackBack