"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." - - - William Blum

April 02, 2006

"You ask why I support undocumented immigrants who take low wage work. Because they are human beings who have a right at natural law to earn a living and because, for the most part, they have little choice but to accept the work they do. The employee who finds him or herself forced to work for substandard pay under substandard conditions should not be declared a felon for doing so, which is what the bill I was criticizing proposes to do.

"You assert that these undocumented immigrants are responsible for lowering the wages and benefits of the employees we are fighting for. It is the employers who decide to pay low wages and benefits, not the illegal aliens that they exploit. Nothing forces an employer to place profits over what I believe should be its duty to pay at least a living wage, including family health and retirement benefits, to all of its employees.

"Since at least 1947, when the Taft-Hartley Act was passed over President Truman's veto, and certainly since Ronald Reagan broke the Air Traffic Controllers' strike, it has been the misguided public policy of this country to break unions whenever possible and to drive wages and benefits down in the name of corporate profits, which to me is simply a synonym for the false-god Mammon. Human beings are not lumps of coal whose price should be governed purely by supply and demand.

"There are minimum standards of decency, call them human rights if you will, that every person should be entitled to and those include the right to live a decent life, with a family that you can afford to educate, food on the table, health care, a bed and a roof, support enabling the disabled who cannot work to live a decent life, and a retirement that is not characterized by need. If these things are not provided by the government through taxation of corporations and the wealthy then they should be provided by employment. Every employee should be paid at least enough to provide all of those things to him and herself and to his or her entire family.

"Alas, our national policy has abandoned these goals in favor of Mammon, demonizing those of us who still believe that attaining these human rights is the proper goal for government policy. One of the most effective tools Mammon has employed is convincing ordinary people that their problems are caused by other ordinary people. Thus citizens are told the problem is alien workers. The native-born are led to believe that the foreign born are the problem. Whites blame their problems on Blacks, and vice versa. The list of the false sources of problems and false enemies that the mass of the American public has seemed to believe in at one time or another can go on forever.

"The real enemies are greed, avarice, militarism, concentration of wealth, corporate power and lust for power. Their minions have managed to distract most of the public from the real problems, focusing them upon the false problems instead. Illegal aliens are a false problem. The real problem is the poverty that our nation exploits in a sickening fashion all over the world. The real problem is the lack of necessary labor standards here at home and abroad. Human beings are not items in commerce. Human beings are more important than corporate profit. Human beings are more important than the selfish materialism that seems to have become our National God. As the National Lawyers Guild credo has it, human rights are more important than property rights.

"In my small way, I am trying to bring us closer to the human rights vision that I sketched above. As Mother Jones put it, we need to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. We sure have a long way to go to meet these goals. Indeed, this country seems to be trying its best to run in exactly the opposite direction. I may be in a losing battle, but these are my beliefs and I am sticking to them."

- - - N.J. labor lawyer Bennet D. Zurofsky

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