The JBS meatpacking company has raised salaries by 25 percent to help persuade more people to work in a Texas slaughterhouse, according to the Washington Post.
But that good news, however, is buried by the Post‘s endorsement of the meatpackers’ business strategy, which uses federal immigration programs to recruit replacements for injured or exhausted American (or migrant) workers and to minimize investment in labor-saving automation.
Under the long headline, “Trump says American workers are hurt by immigration. But after ICE raided this Texas town, they never showed up,” the Washington Post reporter, Nick Miroff, argues that the industry must rely on cheap and tough immigrants because Americans won’t do the work:
finding workers remains a perpetual struggle. JBS USA, a Brazilian conglomerate that now owns the plant, has raised starting wages nearly 25 percent in recent years, but like other meat processors across the country, it survived by finding a different set of foreigners to do jobs that used to be filled by illegal workers: refugees …
“We don’t really see American people in these jobs,” said Lian Sian Piang, 34, a meat quality inspector and ethnic Chin who ran away from conscription in the Burmese army as a teenager, living for years in a Malaysian refugee camp. During his 10 years at the Cactus plant, he said, he has seen only “two or three white guys” cutting meat …
“The Administration has made a concerted effort to grow the economy and help businesses thrive through tax reform and a common-sense approach to regulation,” [JBS spokesman Cameron] Bruett said in a statement. “We believe it will adopt a similarly pragmatic approach to workforce availability in agriculture and other labor-dependent sectors.”
It was an acknowledgment that a remedy for the labor shortage — “workforce availability” — would come from abroad.
The Post‘s endorsement of the meatpackers’ low-wage/high-immigration strategy is a notable development, partly because the media has long prided itself as “muckrakers” and opponents of worker exploitation. In fact, many American journalists point to Upton Sinclair’s 1905 book about the meatpacking industry, “The Jungle” as an inspiration to their careers.
“Sinclair is rolling over in his grave because his successors are now putting out press releases for the scoundrels he exposed,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies. The meatpacking industry transformed in the early 20th century because of Sinclair’s book, it transformed itself in the 1980s because immigration allowed it to break the unions, and it can transform itself again, he said, adding:
The idea that we need migrant workers [for the meatpacking industry] is based on a static view of this industry — that meatpacking can’t be done in any other way, that the industry must remain unchanged.
But with fewer immigrant workers, the industry will adapt in a variety of ways — it will increase wages [to attract new workers], automate, move operations to where there are more people … and there may be other developments which happen that we cannot foresee. There is no reason that this industry … shouldn’t transform itself again.
However, the Washington Post is now owned by Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, who employs an army of low-wage workers — and a growing number of robots — to process and deliver packages for his customers. Bezos is also an opponent of President Donald Trump’s 2016 high-wage/low immigration campaign platform, and Bezos’ view of cheap immigrant labor is now routinely promoted by the paper’s editorial board.
Much of the Post‘s meatpacking article is devoted to attacking Trump’s low-immigration/high-wage policy, which has halved the inflow of refugee-workers and is punishing employers who use illegal immigrants:
Under Trump, the U.S. government is for the first time in decades seeking to sharply restrict legal immigration, particularly the entry of people with few job skills, saying they compete with American-born workers and drive down wages. By limiting immigration and tightening the labor pool, the administration argues, competition will increase among employers, forcing them to raise the wages of blue-collar American workers left behind in the dust of galloping global capitalism …
[Local resident Stan] Corbin voted for Trump, but he does not agree with the president when he says the country needs a merit-based immigration system favoring those with advanced skills.
“What we need is people willing to work hard, and people willing to work at JBS,” he said. “Their children will grow up to be engineers. But right now in our country, there is a great need for laborers.”
The Washington Post article does not note that JBS’ recently raised average wages of $17 per hour are still far below pay levels in 1980 — when workers were far less productive. Federal data also shows average wages in the meatpacking sector are well below the JBS’ $17 per hour claim. According to the New York Times:
Between 1947 and 1979, the wages of the average meatpacking worker, adjusted for inflation, increased by around 80 percent, to just under $40,000 per year. But from 1979 to 2012, a meatpacker’s wages declined by nearly 30 percent, to about $27,000.
The Post also accepts the industry talking point that any wage raise would sharply raise supermarket prices, even though payroll costs are only about 10 percent of industry revenues in 2013, or $19 billion out of $198 billion in revenues, according to the North American Meat Institute.
The article also ignores the issue of automation, which allows fewer workers to process more meat and also earn higher wages. JBS’s Australian division, for example, has developed new robotic meatpacking technology to offset the high wages paid to Australian meatpackers:
JBS declined to answer questions from Breitbart News.
The Washington Post article also downplayed industry’s lobbying of Congress to dramatically increase the inflow of cheap workers into the United States — and the industry’s role in blocking congressional approval of Trump’s immigration reforms on February 15.
The industry is pushing Congress to create a new “H-2C” guest-worker program so companies can import temporary workers at very low cost. That H-2C program would allow companies to cut salaries for their remaining American workforces, including the recent immigrants cited in the Washington Post article. The H-2C migrant workers would not be immigrants and would be required to go home when their contract ends.
Overall, the Post‘s article is wrapped up in a self-serving view of immigration held by many progressives who justify the importation of a subservient class into the United States by promising that the immigrants’ children will advance in society. The article concludes with Corbin’s progressive promise that “their children will grow up to be engineers … [but now] there is a great need for laborers.”
In this view, the U.S. meatpacking industry is a social service agency for the world’s poor which also provides liberals with cheap restaurants plus the satisfaction of helping distant foreigners. This “telescopic philanthropy” allows urban liberals to feel good about their generosity to foreigners while they ignore the costs they impose on nearby American communities, including the American blue-collar workers who see their salaries cut and the American children who are forced into overcrowded and dysfunctional classrooms.
The article emphasizes immigration-as-philanthropy when describing the immigrant workers by their original birthplace or ethnic group — for example, as Sudanese, Laotians, ethnic Karen and Chin from Burma, Vietnamese, Mexicans, or Guatemalans. That description downplays the immigrants’ new status as Americans who are as deserving of decent jobs and workplace safety as any other American.
The self-serving view is also echoed by many business CEOs, urban white-collar professionals, and Wall Street executives who gain from the current inflow of cheap labor.
Ordinary voters — including many white-collar professionals — rationally prefer Trump’s promise of a low-immigration/high-wage national economic policy.
Immigration polls which ask people to pick a priority, or to decide which options are fair, show that voters in the polling booth put a high priority on helping their families and fellow nationals get decent jobs in a high-tech, high-immigration, low-wage economy. Those results are very different from the “Nation of Immigrants” polls which are funded by CEOs and progressives, and which pressure Americans to say they welcome migrants.
Four million Americans turn 18 each year and begin looking for good jobs in the free market.
But the federal government inflates the supply of new labor by annually accepting roughly 1.1 million new legal immigrants, by providing work-permits to roughly 3 million resident foreigners, and by doing little to block the employment of roughly 8 million illegal immigrants.
The Washington-imposed economic policy of economic growth via mass-immigration shifts wealth from young people towards older people, it floods the market with foreign labor, spikes profits and Wall Street values by cutting salaries for manual and skilled labor offered by blue-collar and white-collar employees. It also drives up real estate prices, widens wealth-gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, hurts kids’ schools and college education, pushes Americans away from high-tech careers, and sidelines at least 5 million marginalized Americans and their families, including many who are now struggling with opioid addictions.