Friday, March 12, 2021

Same Old Same Old

Don't say you're shocked. Don't say you're outraged or even surprised. On Wednesday, a Long Island, NY television station reported

Union officials say workers at Tate's Bake Shop are being threatened with deportation if they try to unionize. The iconic cookie company in Southampton has become a Long Island favorite over the past 50 years. But employees disclosed the allegations to News 12 with their identities shielded for fear of retaliation.

Those who spoke to News 12 spoke through a Spanish interpreter. They alleged that some employees at Tate's, a majority of whom are undocumented immigrants, say they're being harassed at work.

"She is not happy there anymore because when she gets there, everyone is looking at her saying, 'Oh you're with the union so you shouldn't be here,'" says the interpreter. Employees say they're scared they'll lose their jobs or even be deported, because they claim management has threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Eastern States Joint Board President Cosmo Lubrano says once supervisors at Tate's heard about the employees wanting to unionize, they began harassing them, which is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act. "They began threatening people based on their immigration status, telling them that if their documents are not in order and they attempted to join the labor union they would get deported," says Lubrano.

Tate's was originally owned locally by Kathleen King, who used to sell her homemade cookies at her father's farm in the 1970s. The company was acquired by snack food giant Mondelez International in 2018 for $500 million.

A Mondelez spokesperson responded to the claims, saying, "Any allegation that the company has violated any aspect of the National Labor Relations Act is untrue. Tate's prides itself on treating all its employees with respect, and we have fostered over many years an inclusive, supportive, caring work environment and culture with our employees." Employees have until April 21 to vote on whether or not they'd like to unionize.

The only difference between Tate's and hundreds (thousands?) of workplaces across the country is that the cookie workers have the courage to consider unionization. Elsewhere, illegal immigrants keep their mouths shut and take what they get because they have no choice. (And yes, they are illegal immigrants, immigrants with illegal status.)

In the video below, from California, the reporter notes that an employer can be fined up to $10,000 for each time he or she has been found by the state's labor commission of threatening an employee. That's beneficial, but a case of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. It's probably too little, and it's clearly too late.

The answer lies in discouraging employers from violating federal law by hiring illegal immigrants.  Enforcement should be increased with a greater (than now, and than with other actions) emphasis on workplace raids accompanied by punishment of employers who hire workers in the country illegally. Exploitation of workers who are in the country illegally illustrates also the danger of legalization and benefit of citizenship for the nation's workers.

That policy choice would of course come with a price. The cost would be more legal immigrants or native-born citizens working, as well as employees who are paid more and who cannot as easily be threatened for trying to start a union. These "costs" should be welcomed.

Elite conservatives fear such a situation while their liberal counterparts welcome all immigrants with no consideration as to legal status.  It's no wonder the bosses at Mondelez International believe they can act with impunity.


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