A Fable about Immigrant Bashing
By Brian Schwartz
A wolf pack gnaws the bones left over from their pathetic dinner of sinewy mule deer and gamey rabbit. Great Emperor Bull Elk comes to the edge of their territory, urinating contemptuously towards the wolves. Great Emperor Bull Elk shakes his mighty tree of branching antlers and bellows, “That’s how I roll.”
Beta wolf says to Alpha, “Let’s kill ’im now.” Alpha replies, “Now’s not the time, he’s too fleet and strong and we will waste our dinner on a run with no meat at the end.”
In his regal imperiousness Great Emperor Bull Elk steps in a prairie dog hole, twisting his foreleg. A scout for the wolf pack reports back to the pack about Great Emperor Bull Elk stumbling with a limp. Alpha, Beta, and the pack let out a victorious howl in unison and set out following Alpha wolf, who cries, “At last he is ours!”
Great Emperor Bull Elk sees the pack coming upon him. As he runs away, every step feels as if his foreleg is being smashed by a rock. “They’ll get me for sure if I don’t make it to that bloated moose carcass lying under the pine trees at the edge of this field.” Alpha wolf overtakes Great Emperor Bull Elk and takes a flying bite out of his fatty flanks. Elk’s blood squirts out, splattering upon the pursuing wolves’ tongues, enflaming their hunger lusts like bacon grease poured on a fire.
With one great desperate leap Great Emperor Bull Elk veers into a stand of pine trees. A great bull moose carcass blocks the wolves’ pursuit. Alpha wolf stops short and the rest of the pack stumbles keystone-cop style into his backside. Flies buzz around the carcass and maggots fall out of the eyeballs and nostrils like popcorn pouring out of an airpopper spout. Alpha, Beta, and the pack tear into the abdomen, gorging on the smelly viscera, enough to feed three wolf packs. Two weeks go by and the wolves are fat, but they are sick having eaten the tainted moose meat. Life for the wolves becomes a long, slow, painful endurance test and the wolves never recover their health.
Great Emperor Bull Elk heals up and returns to his disrespectful ways, once again urinating on the pack’s territory, shaking his tree of branching antlers, and bellowing challenges that can never again be met by the sickened pack.
Our wolf pack symbolizes John Sweeney and the backward sections of the AFL-CIO, pulling along those workers ignorant enough to believe the claim that immigration drives down wages. Corporate America and its Republican-Democrat politicians are embodied by the arrogant Great Emperor Bull Elk. Our bloated moose carcass is the illegal-alien, guest-worker, border-fence diversion that our dear President John Sweeney, along with the racists in the middle and working classes, wish to feed on—leading to the ultimate consequences that will come when they take the bait and swallow it.
Since 9/11, America’s ruling class and its Republican-Democratic politicians have had a great deal of trouble disguising themselves as the vanguard of democracy and fair play to their once CNN-mesmerized constituents. Burning issues of our day gave all American citizens pause to think. Political blunders and crimes abound, such as the Iraq War, off-shoring state torture to Guantanamo Bay, reform-theft of Social Security, federal courts voiding pensions and contract obligations bargained in good faith by the trade unions, and not the least, environmental destruction.
America’s ruling class and its Republican-Democratic politicians have used immigration issues as a diversion whenever the working class has demanded higher wages and both working and middle classes are pressing for social infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, and other vital programs that have an uplifting effect on all of American society.
Sometimes decent people can believe the utter falsehood that legal or “illegal” immigration is the cause of falling wages. Even Mother Jones got sucked into the anti-Chinese campaigns of the late 1890s. AFL-CIO President Sweeney can claim a historical relationship with Mother Jones at her most backward before she became the great labor icon of the 1900s.
Capitalists and their State Department administrators determine how wide the immigration floodgates should be opened. And true, the floodgates are widened when there is a need to force wages down by demonizing immigrants of color in today’s racist capitalist world. Somalis, Mexicans, and other nationalities have moved into the U.S. meatpacking industry here in my region of the country, not because they were used has a foil to drive down the wages but because the meatpacking industry was abandoned as a sane career choice by a majority of American citizens when the P-9 strike against Hormel was crushed in 1986.
And it was Minnesota’s Democrat Governor Rudy Perpich who smashed the union movement in the meatpacking industry by sending the National Guard to crush militant Local P-9. Sadly, the UFCW bureaucracy was more loyal to the Democratic Party than to their membership. They caved into the meatpackers’ assault on P-9 rather than embarrass the Democratic Party by waging a militant fightback.
Hotel, restaurant, and grocery store unions have lost ground, allowing the owners to hire second-tiered and even lower-paid part-time workers and making it virtually impossible for new hires to make it to fulltime union status and enjoy decent wages and benefits.
If we look at the facts in this light, it appears as if once a union is crushed or weakened by management, people tend to look at these jobs as temporary or losers’ jobs where nobody should expect to make a decent living. Then, desperate for help, the employer fills the jobs with whoever will come asking.
Immigrants in the textile and mining industries pioneered American industrial unionism. Immigrants waged militant fights in the name of higher wages and worksite safety. A great revolutionary organization called the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) supported and at times led these great strikes. The sons and daughters of these immigrants would fill the fighting legions of the CIO in the 1930s, building a legacy of worker prosperity and leisure time. These are being called out-dated overly expensive legacies by the corporations and are being ruthlessly taken away at the present time. In reality, wages and working conditions are the sole responsibility of the cowardly class-collaborationist labor bureaucracy.
Mexican workers fleeing poverty for employment opportunities in North America are allies, not enemies. Wages, safety, and security will be won only by battles on the picket lines, not in the Congress and courts. Great numbers of workers assembled en masse with a determination to win a better life is the only power that can defeat Corporate America, its courts and cops. We will need Mexicans and all other nationalities to reinforce our picket lines when the showdown comes. And since they share the pain they should share the gain.
Immigrant workers can’t unionize their workplaces if they are isolated and vulnerable to being picked off by immigration authorities. Realistically, when the big-paying jobs dry up or are sent abroad, all that’s left is the service industry. As American citizens we can only benefit if the immigrants working these jobs have reinvigorated the union where it is dying, or have extended it into the jobsites where it didn’t exist before.
Yes, when today’s labor movement relies on the self-defeating strategy of class collaboration, we pay a high price in the form of legacies bequeathed to us by our immigrant forebears. At the very least we can honor our past by not allowing ourselves to be diverted by the illegal-immigration, guest-worker, border-fence diversion.
The criminal Iraq War has to be ended, Social Security has to be preserved, contracts and pensions must be protected, and our endangered biosphere rescued for our descendants. These are the burning issues of our day. A serious fight for open borders and unconditional legal status for all immigrants must be the only logical proposal we can advocate against the bankrupt executive and Congressional branches of the U.S. government.