Organized Labor Ignores U.S. Workers

John Vinson's picture

By John Vinson

John is a Senior Writing Fellow with CAPS. A long-time advocate of conservation and responsible use of natural resources, John is president of the American Immigration Control Foundation.

The writer's views are his own. 

December 17, 2014

American workers are under siege. Many are unemployed, and many who want full-time employment have to settle for part-time work. Wages are increasing slowly, if at all, for workers. And jobs paying a middle-class income are increasingly hard to find.

An important besieging force is mass immigration, legal and illegal. Foreign workers are competing for jobs, and this competition plays a significant role in wage suppression, particularly for Americans of lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of foreign-born workers in the U.S. (both legal and illegal) rose to more than 25 million, the highest total ever.

Given these realities, one would think that reducing mass immigration would be an important goal of the American labor movement. But in fact it isn’t. Indeed, many labor leaders today have no objection to the status quo on immigration, and even support legal status for illegal aliens – which would allow them to keep the jobs they now illegally occupy. And, by so rewarding them, legalization would encourage more foreigners to come here illegally and take jobs.

Just recently, AFL-CIO Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler testified before a Senate Judiciary hearing that President Obama’s edict granting legal residency and work permits to 5 million illegal aliens would boost the economy and help American workers. Incredible!

Amazed at this statement, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) replied to her: “It’s time someone stood up for working Americans. The idea that certain businesses feel that they have a right to demand labor at the wages they would like to pay, I think, should not be a position you should support.”

Agreeing with Sessions, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) added, “It is my view that the modern Democratic Party and to a significant extent union leadership are actively working contrary to the interests of working men and women in this country and union members.”

Cruz informed Shuler that a 2013 Rasmussen Poll found that 90 percent of union members said curtailing illegal immigration was important to them. In response, Shuler said, “Polls are subject to interpretation... We can find a poll that will support anything, essentially.” Could she indeed find a reputable poll showing that most union members favor job opportunities in America for illegal aliens? One has to wonder.

What accounts for labor’s bizarre stance on illegal immigration? One explanation is that the size and clout of organized labor in this country have dwindled significantly in recent decades, and many labor leaders view immigrants as a source of recruits to fill their ranks again. But why couldn’t they appeal to American workers with policies beneficial to them, specifically a policy to restrict immigration?

One reason is that some powerful unions are in the public sector, and their members actually benefit from an increase of foreigners who receive public tax-paid benefits. Teachers’ unions, for example, see growing school enrollments, propelled by immigration, as beneficial to their members.

But probably an even greater reason, alluded to by Sen. Cruz, is that many union leaders are ideological Democratic leftists, and they view immigrants as a voting bloc for their political agendas. It doesn’t matter to them that continuing mass immigration reduces the job prospects and wages of immigrants and native-born citizens alike. Indeed, a low-income electorate is one most congenial to their aims. Meanwhile these leaders will have more dues-paying members to support their ample salaries.

Union leaders weren’t always so base and indifferent to their countrymen. One outstanding example was Samuel Gompers, who founded the AFL. In 1924 he affirmed that “Those who favor unrestricted immigration care nothing for the people. They are simply desirous of flooding the country with unskilled and skilled labor for the purpose of breaking down American standards.”

His observation describes many labor leaders today. Organized labor in America will never have any worth or relevance to most American workers until it regains the integrity, vision and patriotism of men like Samuel Gompers.

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