“The food movement has been slow to recognise the fact that worker rights and working conditions should be a key part of any discussion about the ethics of food. Reforms to the food system need to incorporate workers and their welfare, not just better farming practices, more humane treatment of animals, and other measures focusing on food as an end product. Food is also a process, and the people involved in that process have a right to fair treatment, something they don’t have currently. The continued marginalisation of farmworkers and the focus on other issues in the food movement speaks poorly of the movement overall, and reveals some telling attitudes about labour, race, and entitlement.”
“Everyone keeps saying that immigration is bad because immigrants might be dangerous. Well, I looked it up, and immigrants kill an average of twelve people everyday, while Americans kill an average of 6,457 people everyday. To me, it looks like when compared to Americans, immigrant are angels.”
“If you look for immigrants, you won't find us sitting on the sofa in the local mansion, on the phone to our relatives as we work out how to claim yet another benefit. You'll find us working early cleaning leisure centres and tube stations, working late in fish and chip shops, McDonalds and strip clubs, working in the afternoons in factories and schools, on farms and building sites. Most of it is service work, the kind of jobs you don't notice people doing, with low pay and long hours, poor conditions and little career progression. Immigrants are invisible, working hard and late for low pay, stigmatised and hated. Lots of hard work, for very little reward: that's most immigrants' experience of their own lives and of the lives of others in their communities.
The facts back this up. Two million immigrants have come to the UK from the eight Eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004. Of those, only 13,000 have claimed Jobseeker's Allowance. Those who have been on benefits haven't stayed on them for long: the average time on Jobseeker's Allowance is a mere thirteen weeks. And the cost of benefits is nothing compared to the five billion pounds that these immigrants have added to the economy.
Immigrants don't get much of reward themselves. They cycle home six miles from a late shift at minimum wage because they can't afford the bus, risking their life because they can't afford lights on their bike; scrimp and save to send money home or look after elderly relatives or young children; or live in a small flat above a fish and chip shop, managing a business and looking after four children. Something for nothing? More like a lot of back breaking work for next to nothing.”
“When women are not paid enough, it affects their families, particularly the education of their children,” says Claudia Williams, research analyst at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
She says that this lack of financial security also means that they are less likely to save for retirement.
Williams believes that immigration reform would improve women’s economic circumstances. If they are subject to abuse, they would also be able to move to another job. Not only are undocumented Latinas underpaid, they must often work in hostile environments. Women in agribusiness, for instance, experience high levels of sexual harassment and sexual violence at work and their undocumented status makes it very difficult for them to challenge these conditions or look for other jobs
Iliana Guadalupe Perez, 25, an independent contractor who helps educate other undocumented immigrants to find her kind of work, says that though her sales and marketing contracting has certain benefits, such as flexibility and a fairly high hourly rate, it’s not what she wants to do in the long run. “This has nothing to do with what I’ve studied,” Perez says. “My degree in math was useless. I couldn’t even get an interview. This is not my ideal situation.” Perez, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education and a Masters in Economics, says her dream job would be working in the U.N. or the World Bank
Another disadvantage is in her line of work, Perez says, is that she’s unable to get tenure, which would result in pay increases over time. Not only that, she points out that undocumented people don’t have the option of insurance, retirement funds, or investment funds.
Perez also feels that immigration reform will significantly improve the financial status of Latinas. “It will give a lot of Latinas the opportunities to use their skills. A lot are educated but are limited to their potential. A Social Security number would allow people to explore new avenues for employment.”
Ann Garcia, an immigration policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, says that the Paycheck Fairness Act and immigration reform would help close the wage gap for Latinas and improve the economy. “When you legalize workers, you offer them citizenship. Taking the worker out of the economic sidelines would cause a rise in productivity and wages that would create a great ripple effect in the economy,” says Garcia.
According to the Center for American Progress, immigration reform that would legalize the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. would add a cumulative $1.5 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, over 10 years.