Things are heating up for a reform bill

Two items: the possible fallout from ICE raids of meat processing plants, and a comment on my posting of a Wall Street Journal story about immigrant workers on Hilton Head Island. In my view, the ICE raids, as reported in the Los Angeles Times and commented on in the Seattle Times, will have a net effect of spurring a reform bill. An anti-reform advocate has it right: these kinds of raids provide a kind of cover for White House / Congress collaboration on a reform bill. (It should be clear that I strongly favor a bill with a good guest worker program in it).
But this is more than just about immigration workers: it has to do with low wage workers. As commentor James Albers notes, employer abuses to lower its costs of doing business adversely impacts legal and illegal workers. We have here not a 7.5 million worker problem (the number of illegal workers) but more like a 30 million worker problem, exacerbated by exploitation of illegal labor.
James Albers’ comment:
Some observations. First, any contractor can gain a competitive advantage by not complying with required labor standards, be they workers’ comp, social security, or health and safety compliance. This is not exclusively an ‘illegal’ worker problem, though it may be exacerbated (i.e., more exploited) when workers don’t have legal status. Second, Mr. Hairston comments regarding his assuming the “moral and ethical high ground” with his proposed ordinance are hollow. He didn’t have a problem subcontracting work to undocumented workers as long as he could sit back and make an easy profit paying just 25% of the contract. (Guess he needed more time to enjoy the ‘luxury’ home he built.)
I don’t believe this type of cut-throat competition is desirable, as it can lead to a dilution of labor standards. However, hiring workers’ “off the books” is pervasive in certain types of construction work, especially small residential and remodeling projects. Illegally designating workers as ‘idependent contractors’ is another way builders and contractors reduce their costs and gain a competitve advantage. In general, there should be stronger enforcement of labor standards that reduce the opportunities for contractors to dilute standards to reap a competitive advantage. But it’s not fair to characterize this problem as an ‘illegal’ worker issue.