June 5, 2007


Labor's immigrant dilemma (Froma Harrop, 6/05/07, Seattle Times)

"Which Side Are You On?" was the great labor song of the 1930s. The question in its title remains relevant in today's immigration debate. Back then, the two sides — the union or thugs from the mining company — made for an easy selection. Now, workers have to choose between their own economic security and mass immigration, which their unions simply opposed in the past.

The new options are more painful because today's immigrants, legal or otherwise, are mostly good, hard-working people and potential union members. But the law of labor supply and demand states — and history confirms — that wages and union power fall in times of high immigration.

The issue causes political vertigo as diversity liberals and cheap-labor Republicans combine to oppose cultural conservatives and poor blacks. In recent decades, organized labor's official stance has moved toward the open-borders position.

Vernon Briggs has been hacking through this confusion for a long time. A labor-relations expert at Cornell University, Briggs is a pro-union Democrat. He recently told the House immigration subcommittee that the ongoing flood of workers into the United States hurts organized labor. This puts him at variance with many of today's union leaders, though not their predecessors.

A more adept Right would have exploited the natural divide between immigrants and Labor, rather than demonizing the former so much that identity politics took over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 5, 2007 12:00 AM

the natural divide between immigrants and Labor

Illegal immigrants gain their work visas, organize and pay union dues. Where is the natural divide?

Legal immigrants usually are more educated, non-laborers. They don't join labor unions. Illegals are, however, laborers who are more susceptible to union promises.

Posted by: ic at June 5, 2007 2:59 PM