Traditionally, labor unions have not been very kind to the prospect of immigrant workers filling their ranks and potential job positions. But in 2008, much of that changed. Unions began recruiting both documented and undocumented immigrants for the purpose into their ranks, changing a century’s old policy that revolved around labor scarcity and competition in the marketplace. What happened?
In the 90’s it was a commonplace practice for labor union employees to drive up on construction sites that were staffed by illegal immigrants and take pictures of them. Many of them would run off under the fear of being outed by the INS and local law enforcement. But during the same period, it became apparent that the federal government wasn’t doing anything to combat the influx of illegals into the labor market, and for good or ill, it meant that union bosses and members had to change tactics on their policy toward immigrants, documented or otherwise.
Meanwhile, the New York Times was reporting a story in which farm workers were being recruited in Mexico with immigration ads placed in Mexican newspapers, and then brought over the border into the states doing jobs for a fraction of the price that that the corporations would have to pay American nationals. On top of that, there was a concerted effort by US corporations to drive these farmers out of the market.
Meanwhile, the same union tactics that were striking fear into the hearts of illegal laborers, saw a change of heart during that period. The unions began extending membership of the undocumented workers into the union, which reduced the incentive for corporations to use illegal labor, and offered undocumented laborers a chance to receive the wages and benefits a naturalized US citizen would have.
Despite all these underhanded dealings by various US companies to recruit cheap labor illegally and under the table, there is a process in place for recruiting immigrant workers properly and above board, that do not involve driving their farms out of business, nor smuggling them across the border.
“Immigration labor attorneys can help companies craft immigration labor ads that specifically follow the guidelines of the Department of Labor,” says one Los Angeles based attorney. “It’s important that those looking to recruit overseas understand the process thoroughly, because one mistake in the recruitment process can throw a serious wrench in the entire process.”
Now that the current administration in the US has taken a hardline stance on undocumented immigrants, and fairly or unfairly, adherence to Department of Labor guidelines is more critical than ever before.
“It’s important now that you follow the recruitment guidelines very closely,” says one immigration lawyer. “The oversight is far less lax now than it was under the previous administration.”