Hat tip to Kevin Drum for the link and the Jungle reference (and it definitely has the Jungle vibe). Tod Kelly writes this juicy piece for The League of Ordinary Gentleman, chronicling a time when he advised a nursery company experiencing an unusually large number of workers comp. claims. Toward the end of a seemingly productive meeting with the nursery owners, this happened:
As we were wrapping up, as an aside, we noted that one of their larger ongoing back injury claimants was an illegal alien. We could close that claim out quickly, we told them, by letting the injured worker know that we would have light duty work for him were he able to legally work for the nursery. Since he wasn’t able, he could be terminated and all future indemnity costs would disappear. As soon as we explained this, the brothers began looking at each other, wide eyed and smiling. I cringed inwardly. I knew we had just made a mistake.
The updated equipment was never purchased, of course. And taking the time to train or stretch was seen as a waste of the company’s time and money. The claims continued to flood in, but now with each claim came notification from the employer that they had “reason to suspect” the claimant was an illegal worker, along with a request to send the light-duty letter so we could avoid making indemnity payments. Over the course of the next year the number of employee injuries increased 20%. But without indemnity costs their annual claims cost decreased 55% – and their insurance premiums went down as a result. They were able to terminate our services the next year with a glowing letter of recommendation.
People immigrant here illegally (or legally, then stay past their visa time) because their type of labor is in demand. This demand comes from businesses willing to take advantage of their residency status to pay depressed wages and provide inadequate work environments. I can’t imagine this is a particularly new phenomenon, nor do I imagine that implementing strict supply-side restrictions is a panacea for business. So by default I’m left with thinking that until you approach both supply (immigrants) and demand (business) side issues (preferably concurrently) then stories like these will continue to merit Upton Sinclair comparisons.