Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Why Unions Prefer Illegal Immigration

 In the never-ending sea of media stories on Big Labor’s split over immigration reform, it’s not often you find really good reporting adding something new and meaningful. But today the Los Angeles Times had an interesting insight into why service employee union bosses are so dead-set on preventing a temporary worker program that they actually prefer illegal immigration: because it is easier to get illegal aliens to join the union.

Remember, service sector union bosses aren’t hiding their desperate grab for more dues payers. The Wall Street Journal‘s Alan Murray noted it of SEIU president Andy Stern just this week: “those who have met with him say [he] mainly wants one thing: more members.” Now it’s UNITE HERE’s Tom Snyder, who says 80 percent of the members of the Los Angeles Local 11 chapter are immigrants, explaining his union’s stance on the immigration battle:

“As the makeup of the industry changed, we were — and are — very assiduous about appealing to and reaching out to those workers,” Snyder said. “For us, the welcome mat is out.”

Creating a temporary-worker program would undercut those efforts, Snyder said, because the new workers would be more dependent on employers and less invested in the workplace.

But as with all things in Big Labor’s Big Divide, the most interesting rhetoric still comes out of SEIU bosses. The Times reports:

While illegal workers are in a similar position, they have a greater sense of permanence and willingness to fight injustice than temporary workers, labor organizers said.

Mike Garcia, president of SEIU Local 1877 in Los Angeles, said that workers’ illegal status “hasn’t been a significant barrier,” but a temporary-worker program would be. Immigrants make up 65% of the SEIU’s 28,000 California members and 95% of the affiliated janitors’ union, he said.

How are we going to continue to build power off of a temporary workforce that has a temporary mind-set and doesn’t see the union as a vehicle for improving their lives?” he said. “Why would they sign the union card?” [emphasis added]

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