Gravity's Rainbow

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Immigrants’ rights are workers’ rights.

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Justice for Port Drivers is an organization fighting for the labor rights of port drivers. I got an email from them today about solidarity with immigrants fighting the recent cancellation of the Temporary Protected Status Program.

From our shores to every store, port drivers are the first or last leg of the journey for what becomes the clothes on our backs, the food on our table, the shoes on our feet, plus the few remaining products we ship overseas. Source: Welcome – Justice For Port Drivers

A few weeks ago I wrote that we don’t have an immigration problem, we have a labor problem. I was writing at the time about farm workers, but it’s similar in many parts of the economy. The situation of the port drivers really *ahem* drives this home.

By misclassifying drivers as “independent contractors,” trucking companies have devised a scheme to increase profits by:

  • Illegally pushing the cost of doing business – fuel, insurance, maintenance, parking, lease payments, etc. – onto the backs of drivers;

  • Stealing workers’ pay by not paying us for all the hours we work; and,

  • Defrauding the government of taxes that help pay for our schools, roads, police, and firefighters.

Trucking used to be a decent job. Now it’s terrible exploitation that can leave people financially worse off than if they weren’t working at all. The people doing jobs like these are those who are the most vulnerable, desperate and are least likely to have the clout and resources to fight back.

Immigrants don’t steal these jobs – we let companies make jobs not worth working. If these jobs were properly compensated and regulated, then anyone would work them.

When we marginalize a group – immigrants, black people, women, poor people, etc. – we make our own labor less valuable. The more people we marginalize, the more companies can get away with paying them less and destroying working conditions and the more people end up marginalized. It’s a terrible feedback cycle.

If we have solidarity and force all companies to pay proper wages and ensure safe working conditions then that cycle gets broken.

Immigration does increase competition for some jobs and drive down wages, but largely because we let companies treat us like commodities.

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