View From Lodi, CA: Rolling Stone vs. American Workers

Last week, I worked myself up into a good lather about "Death at the Wall," the Rolling Stone paean to illegal immigration written by former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Baum.

Now, having just read Part II, "Hanging Sheetrock in the Promised Land," I'm smoldering.

I'll start with Baum's total abandonment of professional journalism. Someone, somewhere taught Baum that a good reporter asks hard questions and rejects easy answers. No evidence of that here, though.

Baum wrote an ode to a group of Mexican itinerant construction workers illegally in the U.S. Spouting the same tedious theme we've heard a hundred thousand times, Baum claimed these workers are doing jobs "Americans won't do." Baum never addressed what impact the abundant availability of cheap labor might have on American workers.

The U.S. has nearly 20 million immigrants in the work force. Their presence creates a complex social problem that deserves intelligent treatment. For Baum to suggest that these roving construction workers are just a happy-go-lucky bunch that work hard by day then drink beer and go to the cathouse at night is irresponsible.

The presence of illegal workers in the U.S. has displaced and hurt thousands of Americans.

To draw a parallel, let's assume that when Baum was at the Wall Street Journal, he earned $75,000. Imagine that one day, his boss came in and said, "Dan, a bit of bad news. Someone in the U.S. illegally is replacing you. He'll work for $30,000 without benefits. And he'll work twelve or fourteen hours a day, six or seven days a week. He'll never complain."

Then, just to rub salt in Baum's wounds, the next day he would read his boss quoted in the Journal, "We just can't find Americans willing to be reporters."

[VDARE.COM NOTE: Actually, this process is already underway. Go to zazona.com's H-1B database and search for "Dow Jones", the WSJ's parent company. You'll find that Dow Jones employs 171 H-1B visa holders, many of them reporters and writers. See the similar case of USA Today. Editorials denouncing immigration are just a matter of time!]

By working for $11 an hour, a third of the going union rate, and through their willingness to endure conditions no American would tolerate, Vinquino, Chuy, Alanzo, Octavio and Mario have shut American construction workers out of jobs.

The crew has worked up and down the eastern seaboard in Nashville, Memphis, Dayton and Atlanta. According to Baum, English isn't required. All the foremen are Mexican, too.

After I read the Rolling Stone piece, I contacted Greg, my friend at the construction workers' website Gangbox.

I asked Greg, a 33-year old African American and a United Brotherhood of Carpenters cardholder, to comment on the fate of young black men and women who might pursue those construction jobs if they paid a decent wage.

"Some enlist in the military," said Greg. "The vast majority struggle to get the few legit jobs out there and make due with whatever they can get. As for the rest, have you ever wondered why there are 1 million blacks in prison?"

Continued Greg: "Many black men, denied a legit job, are driven into low level street drug sales. And since our war of drugs targets the bottom of the rung, they end up in jail. The same for those caught in petty theft."

"We've really been hurt by losing the low level jobs to the illegal aliens," concluded Greg.

No matter how you slice it, Vinquino et al. compete with Americans with high-school diplomas or less in the job market. And since the illegal aliens are willing to work for lower wages, Americans are stuck.

Does Baum miss this obvious point or does he see things through his cheap-labor loving Wall Street Journal eyes?

I've come away with two conclusions, neither of which Baum set out to give me.

 

 

Law-breaking employers make this disgrace possible, too. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal for employers to hire illegal aliens.

Although breaking the law doesn't concern Baum, he is miffed that the Mexicans don't have worker's compensation.

 

  • Baum must support worker exploitation. "The guys in Room 229…are a kind of cheerful volunteer chain gang," he wrote. They work 12-14 hours a day, six and seven days a week.

 

American labor history has many shameful chapters. But there has never been an era when contempt for the law and the tacit approval of worker exploitation has been so celebrated in the mainstream media.

Where is its conscience?

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.