The argument that we hear a lot is that illegal aliens do the work that citizens and legal immigrants don’t want to do. However, a study done by the Center for Immigration Studies about the 2006 raids at six different Swift meatpacking plants shows a different story.
Swift & Co. operates meatpacking plants in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado and Utah. The work is difficult and dangerous due in part to fast line speeds. The work is, as you can imagine, also quite unpleasant.
U.S. immigration officials raided all six Swift plants on December 12, 2006. The raids, known as Operation Wagon Train, were “the largest single worksite enforcement action in U.S. history.” As a result, 1,287 arrests were made which equaled about 10 percent of Swift’s workers. The raid was conducted during the first shift of work and, by the second shift, many employees did not turn up for work, as the word had spread.
The pork plants took four months to get back to full production while the beef plants took five months. In the meantime, the company placed ads and provided incentives to recruit legal citizens to work. These incentives included a higher pay than previously employed workers, signing bonuses, and bonuses to those who could bring in other employees.
In summary, within 5 months, the Swift plants were up and running with legal immigrant and citizen workers. The bottom line, there were legal immigrants and citizens willing to do the work.
Prior to this raid, because of low pay, there is a huge turnover rate at all of the factories because of the conditions and low pay. The different plant locations have different turnover rates. In Texas, the turnover rate was 42 percent or 100 replacement workers each month. In Utah, the rate was 40 percent, or 440 replacements. Nebraska’s plant has a 70 percent turnover rate.
Back in 1980, workers were paid what would be $21.75 per hour in 2009 dollars. However, in 2007 workers were paid what would be $12.03 per hour in 2009 dollars. This large difference in wages makes the incentive to work at the factories very low. The work is already unpleasant but lowering wages only discourages potential employees even more.
The study showed that in order for legal immigrants and U.S. citizens to work at these factories, the incentives must be higher to keep them employed. In other words, citizens and legal immigrants were not unwilling to do the job, rather, they were unwilling to do the job at depressed wages acceptable to illegal aliens.
Months after the raids took place, the six Swift factories had started up production again and were employing legal residents and citizens of the U.S. One of the things that can be learned from this is that wages were indeed lowered by the presence of illegal aliens. Illegal aliens were willing to do the work for a lower pay. And, Swift was willing to employ illegal aliens because it meant saving money. By doing this, native-born workers were less interested in working in conditions where they weren’t as highly compensated as the workers had once been. Additionally, once the raids were over, the employees were legal residents and, therefore, showing that the statement, illegal aliens are willing to do the work citizens won’t do, is simply not true.
If you have any questions or concerns, please call Delegate Dave Albo at (703) 451-3555 or my website at davealbo.com