Have you seen the latest PSA videos at the U.S. Department of Labor? It’s a campaign called “We Can Help”. Over apparent concern that illegal aliens are being exploited (and yeah, they often are), this campaign seeks to let those illegal workers know they can snitch on their employers—safely and confidentially. Check it out:
I transcribed the words here:
You work hard. And you have the right to be paid fairly.
I’m U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis. And it is a serious problem when workers in this country are not being paid every cent they earn. Remember, every worker in America has a right to be paid fairly, whether documented or not.
So, call us. It is free and confidential. At 1-866-487-9243.
We can help.
“…whether documented or not.”
Doesn’t this seem a bit odd? I didn’t know we had a state-run human rights advocate—found in the U.S. Department of Labor—that overlooks illegal entry, presence, and labor in this country in favor of “fair” wages for said violators of our laws. Well, we do. As Wikipedia reports about this Cabinet-level department:
The United States Department of Labor is a Cabinet department of the United States government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, re-employment services, and some economic statistics. Many U.S. states also have such departments. The department is headed by the United States Secretary of Labor. Hilda Solis is the current Secretary of Labor. Seth Harris is the current Deputy Secretary of Labor.
The purpose of the Department of Labor (DOL) is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights. In carrying out this mission, the Department of Labor administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws. These mandates and the regulations that implement them cover many workplace activities for about 10 million employers and 125 million workers.
According to this stated purpose, it matters not whether these workers are documented, since we might interpret even illegal aliens as wage earners “of the United States”, right?
To be sure, exploitation of anyone is unethical. To take advantage of one person for your own gain—simply because you know you can get away with it—is tyranny. Are illegal aliens, who work here illegally, being exploited? Sure, some are and some aren’t. Some are free to negotiate the terms of their labor with those who hire them. Some are quite literally trapped by their employers (or at least those who source their employment). So this is a sticky issue.
I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of some of the folks looking to better their conditions. If I were in Juarez, Mexico, had limited skills, and virtually no hope of future improvement—what would I do? After all, isn’t the (original) American dream the hope of opportunity under the freedom, liberty, and justice of that great nation? Isn’t the hope validated because one can enjoy the fruits of their labor as they please? Who wouldn’t be attracted to such a thing—especially when coming from an environment of lawlessness, corruption, and oppression? Given this scenario, I’d try to cross the Rio Grande for greener pastures. Wouldn’t you? I find myself in no position to judge these people.
This gets complicated, of course, because we know this is not the only reason to cross the border into the USA. Criminals do quite well here. There are lots of drugs to sell to paying customers, lots of expensive vehicles for the taking, and plenty of “turf” to stake out to do all these things. Not all who come to America do so with mutual benefit in mind. Not all who come adopt our culture and assimilate. Many come only to pillage.
There is also a wide gray area. Emergency rooms cannot force people to pay for their services, so many such services to non-payers are borne by those who can pay. Babies born here are automatically U.S. citizens—who wouldn’t want that for their children? And many means of playing the system allows many such folks to benefit from the many social services offered by our generous (lax?) policies.
Who is exploiting whom?
Getting back to the PSA from the U.S. Department of Labor, I notice the following assumptions:
- Both legal and illegal workers work hard
- Even those working here illegally have a right to “fair” pay
- If this “right” is denied, the employer is the villain
- We don’t care about your legal working status, we want to crack some skulls—starting with those evil employers
So what’s wrong with these assumptions?
First, as I noted earlier, not everyone here illegally is here legitimately (obviously). Many are openly exploiting our system. Second, I didn’t know anyone here illegally has a right to work at all. After all, isn’t that the purpose of working papers? A “green card”? So making the jump to fair wages as a “right” seems preposterous, when the labor that delivers such wages is flagrantly illegal. Third, not all employers of illegal aliens are necessarily exploiting these workers. I guarantee you, the guys standing on the corner of University and Gilbert in Mesa, AZ, are quite willing to work hard in exchange for their wages. Nobody is forcing them to do this, and it would seem the relationship between laborer and boss is mutually beneficial (legality notwithstanding).
Somehow I guess I expected my own Department of Labor would be my advocate. Maybe fight for my right to exempt all medical expenses (and insurance premiums) from taxation? Fix our broken Social Security system so people can either opt out or expect an actual return on investment by the time they “retire”? Stop enslaving multiple generations to pay off national debt created from reckless and unaccountable spending? Reduce public-sector pay scales to compete with jobs found in the private sector? I could go on and on.
Who knows? Maybe this “We Can Help” campaign is really a plot to root out and prosecute the employers of illegal aliens? And perhaps from there, the illegally-employed can be rounded up and deported. Seems a bit under-handed, but I guess it would work. After all, with a name like U.S. Department of Labor, you’d think legal labor of U.S. citizens would be top priority.