Last February, The Charlotte Observer ran a six-part series, The Cruelest Cuts, which essentially accused a large North Carolina poultry producer, House of Raeford of maltreating and exploiting the illegal Hispanic workers who apparently make up the bulk of the firm`s work force:
..Our journalists found...that House of Raeford has undergone a work force transformation. In the early 1990s, its workers were largely African Americans. Today, between 80 percent and 90 percent of workers at some of its plants are Latinos. Most have no legal standing in this country; most are poor...
[Poultry series exposes a new, silent subclass, By Rick Thames The Charlotte Observer,February 10, 2008]
This was naive of The Charlotte Observer, since in Primary season no politician wanted to be seen championing illegal immigrants (or offending the powerful interests which benefit from their presence). The well researched story essentially went nowhere, except for some routine employer-bashing by Senator Kennedy and other Democrats at a Senate sub-committee hearing.[Lawmakers: Toughen poultry plant penalties, Congressional hearing on hazards prompted by Observer articles, By Ames Alexander And Lisa Zagaroli, The Charlotte Observer, April 2, 2008]
Naive and incurious ra-ra immigration enthusiasm has, of course long been a hallmark of The Observer on the immigration issue.
But now national election concerns have faded, North Carolina`s Democratic Governor, Mike Easley, has crawled out from under cover and tried to use the series to make some political capital at the expense of the state`s Labor Department Commissioner, an elected Republican. In the process, he lapses into Illegal Immigrant Veneration:
"Legal or not these workers are still human beings," he said. "They`re still God`s children. And we have a moral obligation - that supersedes state or federal law - to treat them with dignity."
...Too many employers work immigrants until they are seriously hurt, Easley said. "Then they just throw them on the curb and move on," he said. "There need to be in place some laws to protect these workers. The people of the state don`t want to tolerate this."
[Easley: Labor Dept. needs to be more aggressive The Charlotte Observer , April 17, 2008]
What The Charlotte Observer, Senate Democrats, and Governor Easley fail to grasp (or prefer to ignore) is that is the Government which has created this problem by not enforcing immigration law. Meat processing has always been physically arduous, dangerous, and unpleasant. It is also an extremely competitive business.
When supplied with a work force, which as Rick Thames in the essay above describes as
"A disturbing subclass of compliant workers with few, if any, rights...As a group...compulsively compliant, ever-conscious that one complaint could lead to their firing or arrest or deportation...
then abuses are extremely likely and capital investment to automate and improve conditions unlikely.
Last year, discussing his excellent study demonstrating that Hispanics are eroding South Carolina wages, USC`s Doug Woodward said:
...What we`re doing here in South Carolina is importing cheap labor to our economy...
It is the politicians who let this happen who are really responsible for any abuses at House of Raeford.