"Justice For Janitors"- Or Jobs For Americans?
March 11, 2006, 04:00 AM
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A fascinating drama, entitled "Jobs Americans Won't Do?" is currently playing out in Miami.

Here's the cast:



  • UNICCO Service Company, a privately-held facilities services company to which UM subcontracts its custodial and maintenance needs. UNICCO has 18,000 employees and in 2005 generated $700 million in revenues.





  • UM professors like Professor of Law Richard Michael Fischl who support the workers and their right to organize. Other sympathetic faculty moved their classes off campus so their students will not have to cross picket lines.

From a journalist's point of view, this story is as good as it gets—a tale so juicy and with so many angles and delusional cast members that I could feast off it for the next six columns.

And maybe I will.

But for today, let's try to hone in on the key element of the conflict from the VDARE.COM perspective.

Here we have several hundred maintenance workers, many of who are clearly in the U.S. illegally yet are working at a prestigious university surrounded by well-educated teachers and intelligent students.

(How do I know they're illegal? Read the picket signs written in Spanish. Then ask yourself who else would accept the low wages and non-existent benefits.)

Yet to only a small handful has it occurred that the workers should be deported instead of given raises, the power to unionize or, perhaps worst of all, an indirect voice in Congress.

Central to any awakening by the masses, of course, would have to be the understanding that custodial work is not the exclusive domain of illegal aliens.

To say or suggest that no American, assuming he were paid a living wage, wants to work on the support staff at the UM in Coral Gables, Florida is preposterous. Let's remember that more than 12 million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed.

Custodial work is a job that Americans can and will do.

For example, in my teaching job for the Lodi Unified School District, in California's San Joaquin Valley, my classes are held at two different campuses.

Employed at the two sites are four custodians: three are native born Caucasians and one a legal resident from Cambodia.

The four are paid approximately $15 an hour with a comprehensive benefits package.

Although illegal aliens are abundant in my neck of the woods, the school district maintains a rigid hiring policy.

As new schools are built and custodial positions come open, they are highly coveted.

In contrast, the UM campus is awash in misinformation, both current and historical.

  • First, as recently as two decades ago, janitorial work was a solid middle class job. In the early 1980s, janitors in downtown Los Angeles, through the efforts of their union, won excellent wage and benefits packages. Janitorial positions also served as stepping-stones to better jobs. But by the mid-1980s, with an abundance of illegal aliens suddenly available, non-union firms (similar to UNICCO) hired immigrants at half the wage and under-bid the union shops. This pattern has continued in several industries for over twenty years.

(For more information read Roy Beck's book, The Case Against Immigration, and the 1988 Government Accounting Office Report, "Illegal Aliens: Influence of Illegal Workers on Wages and Working Conditions of Legal Workers."[Not online]

  • Second, a janitor's job, on the scale of one to 10 of blue-collar positions, ranks somewhere in the middle. The work is not glamorous but neither is it backbreaking. Custodians are not tied to a desk. At UM, I assume now and then they are outside in the gentle tropical breezes.

  • Third, despite media protestations that the janitors work tirelessly and are woefully underpaid, at least a few on the crew do less than a butt-busting job. This observation by Sarah Baird was posted in a Miami Herald forum about the strike:

"As a UM student, I have seen the quality of work from some of these workers, including chatting with each other for long periods of time, napping in student lounges and talking on their cell phones while obviously on the clock."[Readers Debate Column on Shalala, UM Janitors, Miami Herald, March 3, 2006]

Check out the aliens' implicit game plan.

They shut Americans out by working for peanuts. Then when the job is theirs, they decide that they can't live on the wages they originally agreed to. The result: they strike for a salary that would have attracted Americans in the first place.

As the strike enters its second week, the workers remain obdurate, UNICCO claims no guilt and UM disingenuously promises a comprehensive analysis of the conflict.

But the most pressing element of the debate remains unspoken.

These workers are illegal. They should not be here.

Donna Shalala [email her] could resolve her headache the same way as the Lodi School District: disassociate immediately from UNICCO—and hire American. [VDARE.COM note: readers report bounces from Shalala's UM address - try dshalala@miami.edu or click here for more.]

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.