Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day -- to All Workers in the United States!


While others may use Labor Day to promote anti-immigrant agendas in "honor" of the "American worker," we at ImmigrationProf have recognized the controbutions to the American economy of American labor (here and here). Immigrants, documented and undocumented, come to the United States to work; they make enormous contributions to the U.S. economy. As Michele Waslin summarizes, immigrants add to the economy in a number of ways:

They increase the overall number of workers, which makes the economy larger and increases gross domestic product (GDP).

They complement the U.S. workforce which today is older and more educated than ever before.

Immigrant workers tend to be concentrated at the top and the bottom of the educational scale, while most Americans fall somewhere in the middle. In other words, immigrants and native-born workers have different levels of education, work in different occupations, and live in different areas of the country.

Immigrant workers spend their wages in U.S. businesses—buying food, clothes, appliances, cars, etc.—which sustains the jobs of the workers employed by those businesses. Moreover, businesses respond to the presence of new workers and consumers by investing in new restaurants, stores, and production facilities. The end result is more jobs for more workers.

Finally, immigrants are entrepreneurial and more likely than natives to start their own businesses. According to a report from the Kauffman Foundation, “immigrants were more than twice as likely to start businesses each month than were the native-born in 2010.”

In the past, trade unions and political leaders supported immigration restrictions to protect "American workers." For example, Dennis Kearney and the Workingmen's Party supported the infamous Chinese exclusion laws in the late 1800s. Organized labor supported employer sanctions in the 1986 immigration reforms.

Ultimately, to protect workers, the nation should devote resources to protecting the legal rights (wage and condition protections, for example) rather than focus on misguided -- and often discriminatory attempts -- to divide immigrant and "American" workers and engage in an attempt to do the impossible and "close the borders." In this vein, Governor Brown recently agreed to a compromise bill with legislative leaders on a farmworker bill supported by the UFW, which turned a Labor Day weekend protest march into a celebration. For photos of teh march, click here.


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