was bound to happen.
Disney Corporation last year fired hundreds of its techs in Orlando,
Florida, and replaced them with skilled foreign workers, presumably
at a much lower wage, and two of the fired have filed a lawsuit,
claiming that Disney did so illegally.
of the plaintiffs was laid off early in 2015 and was instructed to
train his replacement, a tech worker from India. There were about
250 techs who were fired and, presumably, forced to train their lower
wage replacements, under the threat that refusal to train them would
result in a lesser or no severance pay check. It was hardly a
choice, so one can presume that they all trained the new workers,
most of them from India.
case is similar to one a few decades ago, when a General Electric
engineer in New York’s Capital District complained that GE was
taking U.S.-educated Indian engineers and sending them back to India,
where they would work for $10,000-$11,000 a year, maybe pretty good
pay for India, but that number was about 10 percent of what they
would have been paid, had they been employed in the U.S. Always
looking to save a buck, those corporate types.
see that this is a problem of long standing, one only has to look at
the farm worker programs that have been instituted in the U.S. over
the past five or six decades. The Bracero program was instituted in
1942, just as the war effort was beginning to build, and it allowed
Mexican workers to enter the country for work in the fields and on
the railroads. They also, like the tech workers at issue in the
2015 Disney case, were to be temporary workers, but who is to keep
track of where they go and what they are doing?
Republican candidates for the presidential nomination have made a
major issue of the “illegal immigrants” who now number as
much as 11 million or 12 million and some, namely Donald Trump, has
said he would deport all of them. Ted Cruz, the erstwhile right wing
senator from Texas, is not far behind Trump. There have been other
programs for importing foreign labor, but the heart of it is that
these workers would work for less, complain less about working
conditions and more or less stay in the background of American life.
The two major political parties have had a hand in this and now, at a
time when so many have had children who were born here and are
American citizens, the families are demanding some services that have
been paid for by their taxes over a period of generations.
overriding reason for importing labor is that it can be cheap. And,
if many are not documented, they are not likely to take to the U.S.
courts for justice in pay, injury on the job, or for any other ill
that has befallen them while they have toiled to make America the
strong economy that it is, even if it can be described as strong only
for the rich and the corporations. Importing labor is a win-win for
Corporate America, as they see their profits enhanced from the hiring
of foreign, cheaper labor. Usually, the main reason given,
especially in farm work, is that “Americans won’t do that
kind of work.” But the reason they won’t do “that
kind of work” is that it provides far from a livable wage.
It’s that simple, and that’s the way growers like it,
construction contractors like it, the meat industry giants like it,
and most other employers like the low wage workers.
the past quarter century, another phenomenon has arisen to provide
cheaper labor, the contingency worker or part-timer. Part-time work
allows corporations to have much of their workforce on a half-time
schedule. Doing this allows the corporations to avoid paying
overtime or to provide any benefits, like health insurance or
pensions, paid sick leave, paid vacations, or paid family leave.
These are just a few things that make for a decent living and a
schemes have moved up the scale, as well. According to a number of
studies, adjunct professors now make up about half of the teaching
staff of colleges and universities. They are, essentially, part-time
workers or on-call workers, except that they are working most of the
time, albeit at one or two institutions of higher learning. They
have made as little as $18,000 a year, depending on the number of
courses they are given to teach by the administration. They are
organizing unions around the nation to deal with these problems.
These teachers in many cases have struggled for years to earn a
master’s degree or a Ph.D, and are still at entry-level wages
for people with no degree. And, they are likely to have student
loans outstanding of as much as $50,000 or more.
of this, of course, is by way of institutions of higher learning
saving lots of money. Their administrative staffs are mushrooming on
the backs of the students, the faculty and, especially, the adjuncts.
Around the country, adjunct professors are organizing unions as the
only way they will be able to improve their wages, their working
conditions (many do not have an office or other place to work), and
gain a measure of job security.
who clean and maintain the hallowed halls of learning long have
struggled to gain a living wage and many of them are minorities,
black and brown, and great numbers are immigrants, who bring with
them not only the language barrier, but also they have to put forth a
constant effort to fit in with their communities, for themselves and
are many other examples of the downward pressure on workers, in
general, trying to get them to accept that they are just workers,
nothing more, nothing less, no matter the degree of experience or
education. The lesson to be taken from this is, “Be satisfied
with what little you have, for that’s all you might get for
your efforts.” The movements to change this are out there:
The fight for a $15 an hour U.S. minimum wage, the unionization of
low wage workers, Black Lives Matter, and any number of efforts
designed to force the powers that be to recognize that the workers
are “the people” mentioned in the founding documents of
the nation. Not incidentally, this is the time for a “Black
Workers Matter” movement in the country.
recent issue of Bloomberg magazine asked on its front cover why black
tech workers are not being hired by Silicon Valley, since so many are
being educated both by traditionally black colleges and universities
and at other universities. Good question, but the answer is more
than just why the big operators of a high-tech economy are not hiring
the highly qualified black and brown graduates. It’s a
question that needs to be asked of the nation as a whole (as well as
high-tech industries), and that’s why we have some of the
movements cited above.
you work at a technical job, a teaching job, a clean-up job, a
service job of any kind, or you work in one of the millions of retail
and sales jobs, if you work for a paycheck and the boss has the right
to fire you for any reason, or no reason, you are simply a worker.
You should be making common cause with all of the other workers, for
politicians and Corporate America are not going to improve your lot.
They are not your friends. You, along with all of your fellow
workers, will have to do it for yourselves. That’s what a
union is about and that’s why they are so fearful of unions in
every aspect of our national life. Join your union today.