Last night, Glenn Beck and guest Tim Phillips from Americans for Prosperity — one of the lead organizations behind the Tax Day Tea Party protests — kicked off the week by bashing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and attacking unions for wanting to represent undocumented workers. According to Beck and Phillips, unions don’t care about the American worker:
BECK: Anybody who says, hey the unions — they just love America–they do. They love America with all their little itty-bitty heart. And they love the American worker. And that’s all they’re trying to do — is help the American worker…Why would a union want to bring in illegals that are working below minimum wage, working in awful conditions? Why would they want to do that unless they were trying not to protect American jobs but just trying to get rich and have a whole bunch of new people signed up to be union members?
PHILLIPS: You hit it Glenn. They simply want more of the forced dues that come from new union members, regardless of their status — whether they’re here legally or not. They just want more money for their coffers to pursue their genuinely crazy liberal agenda.
BECK: …There’s nothing like starting your week just, ya know, going after the unions.
There are actually a lot of reasons why unions would want to organize immigrant workers who earn low wages working in miserable conditions — and they don’t include any sort of get-rich-quick scheme or “crazy liberal agenda.”
When immigrant workers are exploited, it drives down the wages, benefits, and working conditions of all workers in that industry. Cristina Jiménez, an immigration policy consultant at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy has pointed out that “consigning undocumented workers to a precarious existence undermines all who aspire to a middle-class standard of living.” By organizing both immigrant and native-born workers, unions are better able to negotiate contracts that improve the standard of living for all of their members across the board.
Undocumented workers are extremely difficult to organize and EFCA would in fact make that job easier by strengthening penalties against companies that illegally coerce or intimidate workers to prevent them from forming a union. Increased union membership would help establish a secure workforce and lead to increased output and a more productive economy. Union workers earn 30% higher wages than their non-union counterparts and pay 8% less in health care deductibles. 72% receive retirement pension benefits compared to the 15% of non-union workers. EFCA is essentially a profit-making endeavor for the U.S. economy as a whole.
The most important thing that Beck misses is that it’s not the unions, but rather the unscrupulous employers who profit from hiring and exploiting undocumented immigrants that hurt American workers. It is not the union’s responsibility to verify the immigration status of a company’s employees, but it is a union’s duty to represent the interests of all of its members.