Workers are to be admired, not pitied

Response to an article in Salon regarding poor working conditions for immigrant laborers in California dairies:

While most Americans frown on minimum wage jobs, the dairy work represents a vast improvement over working conditions in Mexico. That is why these workers are here: 5$ a day in Mexico vs. $7 an hour in the U.S.–not a hard choice. I think it’s admirable that some workers are starting to unionize and use their collective bargaining power to improve their conditions. Having said that, I am outraged at the implication that the work is akin to slavery. What happened to honest work for honest pay? No one is forcing the workers to be there. This country was built with backbreaking work, and our ancestors of all races lived through apalling conditions to get us where we are today. I live in Los Angeles, where Hispanic men stand on street corners for the privilege of earning $50-75 per day as construction laborers. They fight over the opportunity to get in the truck. They have no protections or health benefits, and do the hardest work on the hottest days. At the same time, many Hispanic men now have become contractors, skilled laborers and earn far more.

The dairy workers are participating in what’s left of the American dream, difficult as this phase of it may be, and are to be admired, not pitied. They will not always be dairy workers, and their children certainly won’t have to. The market is god. It sets the rules and plays no favorites. If conditions were so horrible, no one, Mexican immigrants included, would take the jobs. Milk consumers need not be guilt-ridden over this issue. Adding more regulation and paying workers more would just raise dairy prices which of course impacts poor families more than everyone else. Solving one problem just creates another. The market created this situation, and it should be allowed to resolve on its own. The dairy workers do have a choice of where to work. Like all Americans, (citizen or not) they have a choice to learn better skills and find better jobs, and that’s the bottom line.

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