Exploitation

Immigrants have been blamed for causing many different economic problems, but what role does immigration really play in the United States and the economy? In Iris Marion Young’s article, Five Faces of Oppression, the first face of oppression she discusses is exploitation. A capitalist society removes traditionally enforced class distinctions and privileges and promotes freedom of all individuals. The fact that there is still class domination between the wealthy and the people who work for them in a society where we are all supposed to be free, is explained by exploitation. This form of oppression causes the working class to provide labor in order to benefit another social class. Racial groups of the United States are exploited from a segmented labor market that tends to reserve skilled, high paying, unionized jobs for white people. Young explains that menial labor refers to any servile, unskilled, low paying work, which a person is subject to taking orders from many people. Menial labor is a form of racial exploitation. This is best explained through a distributive model, meaning an unequal distribution of wealth, income, and other resources that is based on structured groups. The injustice of exploitation is based on the social process of producing unequal distributions from one group to another. Today, about twenty years after Iris Young’s article, exploitation still exists today. In Aviva Chomsky’s book, “They Take Our Jobs” and 20 Other Myths about Immigration, she explains how the issue of exploitation is seen in America currently. The second myth mentioned in Chomsky’s book that many people assume about immigrants is that immigrants compete with low skilled workers and drive down wages. Chomsky explains how immigrants are being exploited through because they are willing to work hard and longer for less, which creates a high profit low wage system. Exploitation is happening in many different ways and I will show the reality of it concerning a meat packing raid, revealing many illegal immigrants working in very bad conditions. Immigrants today are being exploited because they are willing to work jobs under conditions that American citizens would not do.
“Immigrants that lack legal protection are more willing to work longer hours for low wages” (Chomsky, 13). This is the main reason why exploitation still exists today because it has caused our country to rely on immigrants in our industrial culture. Immigrants have been overlooked by the fact that they have been doing our countries dirty work for many, many years. This has been made possible due to the increasing inequality that has been occurring in our society still today. Immigrants are being cornered in to having no choice but to accept working for less in unhealthy conditions. In America, we are all supposed to be free and treated equally, but somehow we can still excuse the exclusion of the poor from legal rights. Even when we have tried to expand these rights to the exploited population, businesses still try to find new ways to continue exploitable labor. This has been made possible through what is known today as a dual labor system, which consists of a primary and secondary labor market. The primary labor market includes workers protected by laws created for living wages, health, safety, and benefits. The secondary labor market includes workers that are not protected by the law and conditions are dangerous and harmful to their health. People working jobs in the secondary labor market are mostly not American citizens and are exploited because they are viewed as less deserving and not very intelligent. Unfortunately the inequality of this population does not give them many other opportunities other than to simply accept these jobs under the horrible conditions that they are given.
“The dollar is worth more in their home country than it is in the United States” (Chomsky, 15). This is another important point that Chomsky brings up concerning exploitation. Immigrants are painted a picture of the infamous ‘American Dream’, a country of happiness and wealth. It is certainly true that people who come from other countries to work in America can definitely earn more money. Although, the minimum wage that immigrant workers receive is definitely not enough to support a family in the United States, but it can bring a world of difference in survival for these people’s families in their home country.
The points that Chomsky has brought up about exploitation completes the answer as to why immigrants are willing to work jobs under conditions that American citizens would not do. Vincent Fox, Mexico’s former president once said, “There's no doubt that Mexican men and women full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States.” One of the main reasons this is true is simply because these people are not trying to live a respectable life in the United States. A decent life in United States would not even be possible for most based off their insufficient wages. This is all very easy to understand if you step in to their shoes and realize where they came from. Even though these low wages seem like nothing here in the United States, in their home country it is worth so much more. Not everyone is able to come back to their home country with their savings due to immigrant restrictions, which no longer allows immigrants to return to their home country. Overtime, as immigrants begin to integrate in to today’s society, many are not willing to work for nothing in horrible conditions. These people are beginning to fight back to improve their families and new home.
On May 12, 2008 in Postville Iowa, Agriprocessors Inc. was raided by federal immigration agents. Agriprocessors Inc. is one the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant and slaughterhouse. A total of three hundred and eighty nine illegal immigrants were discovered, some of these workers were as young as thirteen working in very harsh and dangerous conditions. These workers had not even been safety trained or qualified to be working with such dangerous knives and saws for slicing meat.
Now that these immigrants are out of work and most likely facing deportation, they have no hesitation in coming clean about the reality of the conditions inside the meat plant. The younger immigrants told investigators that they worked shifts of twelve hours or more, sometimes through the night and even six days a week. A Guatemalan man named Elmer said he was sixteen when he started out working on the killing floors of Agriprocessors Inc., working seventeen hour shifts, six days a week; a life consisting of nothing more than work and sleep. Elmer admitted, “I was very sad and I felt like I was a slave; my work was very hard because they were not giving me breaks and I was not getting enough sleep, they told us they were going to call immigration if we complained” (Dallas News). Elmer certainly was not alone, a total of twenty seven workers under the age of eighteen were discovered working in many areas of the plant, most of them illegal and from Guatemala as well. These underage workers claim that while working long shifts: they received no breaks, no extra pay from working overtime, and that their bosses knew damn well how old they were. The sad thing is that the Jewish managers of Agriprocessors Inc., were responsible for ensuring kosher standards, but I have not seen one sign of this plant being operated in a kosher manner.
Agriprocessors Inc. argued, “We did not employ workers under the age of eighteen and will fire any underage worker found to have presented false documents to obtain work” (Dallas News). Despite what Agripocessors have said, labor investigators have evidence of labor violations from testimonials of illegal immigrants. Lawyers for these immigrants prepared a suit for wage and hour violations. Unfortunately, federal prosecutors were more focused on immigration charges rather than labor violations. There were two hundred and ninety seven immigrants charged with document fraud, most of them sentenced to five months in prison before being deported, while Agriprocessors inc. faced no charges of labor violations.
Even though some of these young immigrants hired at Agriprocessors did use false Social Security cards, these people had good intentions of trying to help their families. Joel, a fifteen year old who dropped out of school in eighth grade after being hired, explained that he took the job because his mother became ill and was working shifts from 5:30 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. Gilda, a sixteen year old, was working there to help her parents pay off their debts. Both illegal Guatemalan immigrants admitted to facing constant pressure, threats and injuries by the supervisors.
The Postville Raid that took place shows just how serious exploitation has become. These immigrants are hardworking and good people who are being treated like dirt. It absolutely sickens me that people who come off to be ‘kosher’ people are actually hypocritical people. Being jewish, you would think they would have some sympathy or an understanding of where these people come from, but instead they treated these people like dirt. Immigrants are still people no different than any other US citizen and deserve to be treated equal. I cannot believe that the managers and supervisors of Agriprocessors Inc. can live with themselves today after how morally wrong they were to these innocent people and facing no serious consequences. The only thing on their mind was meeting the kosher demands of the food market so the plant could be up and running again.
As I stated earlier, immigrants today are being exploited because they are willing to work jobs under conditions that American citizens would not do. The Postville raid is sadly one of many example of how these innocent people are being exploited. Chomsky paints a clear picture as to why this has become such a big issue in today’s society, but I think it is very sad to see what some people have to go through. Even though these people have crossed borders illegally, they are simply trying to make a life for themselves so that they can be happy one day just like us Americans have had the opportunity to do. People constantly look past all the hard work that immigrants have done for us and continue to blame them for our economic problems today. Instead of pointing fingers at immigrants and treating them like dirt, we should start appreciating how hard these people are willing to work for us no matter the conditions.

Exploitation 8.8 of 10 on the basis of 2496 Review.