Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 4, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Ed Pastor


  • Congressman Ed Pastor discusses the relationship between organized labor and the immigration issue.
Guests:
  • Rebekah Friend - Chair, Arizona Minimum Wage Coalition and proponent of Proposition 202
  • Darcy Olsen - President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, and opponent of Proposition of 202
  • Ed Pastor - U.S. Congressman
Category: Immigration

View Transcript
Jose Cardenas:
Tonight on Horizon, voters in November will be considering a minimum wage raise for Arizonans. We debate the issue. A conversation with congressman Ed Pastor on unions and immigration, and a look at how unions are dealing with the immigration issue today.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possibly by contributions from the friends of Eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening, and thanks for joining us tonight on this special edition of Horizon. I'm José Cárdenas, filling in for Michael Grant. November 7 Arizona voters will be asked to consider Proposition 202, which will raise the minimum wage in Arizona to $6.75 an hour from the current $5.15. Cost of living raises would follow each year. The Arizona minimum wage coalition was the organization that got Prop 202 on the ballot. Here from the coalition is its Chair, Rebecca Friend. Arguing against the proposition, the President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, Darcy Olsen. Thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Rebekah Friend:
Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Rebecca, let's start with you. Why the need in the view of the coalition for a minimum wage initiative?

Rebekah Friend:
Well we had been trying at the legislature for the past four years to even obtain hearings on a bill raising the minimum wage. And we were unsuccessful. And also as you've seen, Congress has refused to do anything for the past 10 years. So we decided to take the initiative to the voters and see what they thought about raising the minimum wage.

Jose Cardenas:
Now Darcy, as I understand, the institute doesn't actually take a position on the initiative as such, but there are concerns that the institute has with the minimum wage increase, or a state version of that. Tell us what they are.

Darcy Olsen:
Right. Well I think where Rebecca and I definitely agree that this is a moral issue, and no one likes the idea that you can work hard in America and still be poor. No one likes that. And the question on the table is, is a minimum wage increase the way to solve that problem? This is a 30\% increase in the minimum wage for the state of Arizona, and I can tell that you if my payroll at the Goldwater Institute- we're a small business, and it went up 30\%, it would be great for the workers I could keep and pay that extra 30\%, but I couldn't keep paying everybody. And some people I'd either have to cut benefits, reduce hours, or there would be jobs cut. And the best estimates in Arizona show that we could lose up to 9,000 jobs if this were implemented. So while the people who retain their jobs would be earning a higher wage, the trade-off to that is the number of people who would no longer be employed or the jobs that would not be created. So that is a cause for concern.

Jose Cardenas:
So is the primary cause for concern that the size of the proposed increase as opposed to whether we have one or not, a state version of the federal law?

Darcy Olsen:
The size of it is certainly a concern, and the larger it is the more you're going to have this offset in unemployment and job loss. I mean, if you didn't have that, then why stop at $6.75, why not make it $100 an hour, right? Obviously along that curve employers can only afford to pay so much before they have to cut the benefits or cut the hours or cut positions all together. So, but there is a principle at stake too, which is that if I want to work for you for $5 an hour and I want to learn how to do the cameras in here, why should that be against the law? I mean, after all, this is a free country, this isn't France. And so there should be that freedom of contract between an employer and a potential employee.

Jose Cardenas:
But isn't that a bridge we crossed a long time ago when we instituted the federal minimum wage law?

Darcy Olsen:
Well the federal minimum wage law certainly in a lot of cases does get in the way of that, but this of course exacerbates that situation.

Jose Cardenas:
Rebekah-

Rebekah Friend:
Yes.

Jose Cardenas:
What Darcy was talking about, is what do you here in opposition to minimum wage increases, whether at the federal or state level, and that is it impacts mostly small businesses and that the very people it's intended to benefit suffer because they won't be able to get jobs. What do you say to that?

Rebekah Friend:
Well, I think this is an issue. I agree with Darcy, that this is a moral issue. But I think how we view this moral issue is completely different. This is an issue about hard-working Arizonans, people who are working 40 hours a week and still not making enough to be above the poverty limit. In this initiative you'll see an exemption for businesses, small businesses with over $500,000 a year. This will not impact them. There are no significant studies that show an impact or negative job loss. This will become a war of stats and studies. And what we're trying to keep focused on is the people who will mostly benefit. The 145,000 working Arizonans who will benefit.

Darcy Olsen:
If-

Jose Cardenas:
Tell me again who the exemption's for- I'm sorry, Darcy, I just want to be clear.

Rebekah Friend: The exemption is for businesses over $500,000 a year in gross revenues.

Jose Cardenas:
They're-

Rebekah Friend:
They're under.

Jose Cardenas:
Under?

Rebekah Friend:
I'm sorry, yes.

Jose Cardenas:
Okay. Darcy?

Darcy Olsen:
Yeah. If I may, on this idea that there is no evidence that this will cause job loss, I mean, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan said overwhelmingly that evidence is overwhelming that the minimum wage does destroy jobs. And as I said, if that weren't the case, why would we stop at $6.75, why not make it $8, 10, $20 why not $1,000 an hour? Well, because there is a point that employers only have so much they can pay, and eventually it will cut in and they can't afford it. So you can't repeal the law of supply and demand as much as we'd like to. So again, it's a trade-off. You can raise some people up more, but the trade-off is that other folks will lose their jobs. And again the estimates in Arizona is up to 9,000 jobs. So that's a pretty serious trade-off.

Jose Cardenas:
But is that only at a certain percentage level? In other words, is there an increase of the minimum wage that would not have the kind of serious impact that you're talking about?

Darcy Olsen: Yes. If it were much lower, the estimates, the best estimates and the most recent coming out of the Cleveland fed would, and the consensus estimate is that for every 10\% increase, you're going to have a 1-2\% loss in jobs. So right now this is a 30\% increase, so you are looking at a 3-6\% job loss. That's expected, you never know, but there's a good chance of that. As we said, I mean what if your payroll here went up 30\%? Something's got to give. It assumes that there's a profit margin in these companies of that much. And most companies just simply don't operate with those kinds of profit margins.

Jose Cardenas:
There's a recent "New York Times" article that suggests that there's been just a phenomenal increase in profits generally among businesses, and yet nothing comparable by way of increase in real wages.

Darcy Olsen:
Well, it's interesting that you'd say that, I think there are a number of ways to look at this. And one of the more interesting components of that, when you tie it to the minimum wage issue, is that in Arizona a lot of employers that traditionally paid the minimum wage, places like Burger King and Wendy's-- Wendy's was my first job in high school at $3.15 an hour or sorry, $3.35 at the time-- is that they actually have to pay higher than the minimum wage because they can't attract workers because the economy is doing so well. So a lot of these places you think of as paying the minimum wage are actually paying more. In other words, the market will dictate, and employers will pay what people are worth to that place of business.

Jose Cardenas:
So Rebecca, who actually will benefit from this? If McDonald's and Wendy's are already paying above the minimum wage, who is going to benefit?

Rebekah Friend:
Well, I think the range of workers who are making at minimum wage or below is huge, including day care workers, nursing home, health care people, some food service, certainly. But I think we need to get back to the issue. While we're arguing economics we're talking about 145,000 working Arizonans who are fulfilling their part of the contract, which is to work 40 hours a week and try to make a living for their family who will benefit from this on January 1 of 2007.

Darcy Olsen:
Another interesting statistic about minimum wage workers is that there's this I think a misperception that once you earn that that's all you earn. And the truth is that 30\% of people within the first year are already raised right out of that. It tends to be an entry point into the labor force, not an end point. And so like I was saying, that was my first job, for many people the lowest skilled, that's where our entry point into the marketplace. And of course as we always said--

Jose Cardenas:
If they don't advance, is this something that people can live on? The current minimum wage in Arizona?

Darcy Olsen:
Well I think most folks would say that a job, any job, even if it's low paying, is better than no job at all. And of course that is the trade-off that we're talking about here. You can't get these increases in a vacuum.

Rebekah Friend:
Now let's talk about who is getting minimum wage. 74\% are over the age of 20. 58\% are women. And a third of those are primary wage earners in the family. That's the population we're talking about. The assumption that this is a starting wage, where everybody goes on to greater things is not true. That is not the real world. The fact that these people are living in poverty and trying to support their families is not fair, it's not just, and this is one way of addressing that.

Jose Cardenas:
Go ahead Darcy.

Darcy Olsen:
Fewer than 5\% of all Arizonans who are working, earn the minimum wage or less, and most of those who do earn the minimum wage are actually part of families, they are either teenagers who are making just trying to get extra income, or they're somebody taking an extra job on the side or sometimes they're retired folks who just want a job to keep busy. So there, very few of these workers, I think it's less than 1\%, actually are supporting a family on the minimum wage. While there are some families, it's I think blown far out of proportion to the actual reality of that situation.

Jose Cardenas:
Let me ask one last question. And it has to do with the politics of this. It's an election coming up, and the suggestion has been that the minimum wage is on the ballot, not only in Arizona, but in other states as an effort to bring out the democratic vote, it's kind of the equivalent of gay marriage issues for the republicans. What do you say about that?

Rebekah Friend:
Certainly, and I've heard that argument. We have had three polls on this issue. The poll numbers continue to climb. They cut across party lines, the issue cuts across socioeconomic, it cuts across gender, it cuts across ethnicity. This is an issue that Arizonans want to address, and that's why we brought it to the ballot, and hopefully they'll vote for it and pass it on November 7.

Jose Cardenas:
Is that your sense too, Darcy, not whether it wins or loses, but the broad popularity of this measure?

Darcy Olsen:
It is a popular measure. And, like I said, nobody likes the idea that people can work hard and still be in poverty. And so -- but again, the question is, is the minimum wage increase the best way to address that? And I think that we really need to be aware of that trade-off between some folks getting higher wages, but then these other folks losing their jobs.

Jose Cardenas:
We're going to have to leave it at that. Darcy Olson, Rebecca, thank you.
U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor was lauded by the A.F.L. C.I.O. as having a pro union voting record. Pastor has also been in the forefront of current immigration issues. The labor movement has sometimes walked with the immigration movement and sometimes against it. Larry Lemmons talked with Congressman Pastor about this problematic relationship.

Larry Lemmons:
You were born and raised in Claypool, Arizona, is that about the time you noticed organized labor and the effect it had on people?

Ed Pastor:
My father was very active in the union. He was a shop steward, and all my uncles and all my family were members of the mine, mill, and smelter workers. And what happened in the 50's, they were deemed to be too radical and communist oriented, and so later the united steelworkers of America came in and there was a jurisdictional battle, but steelworkers represented us, and so I remember as a young kid seeing salt of the earth in the union halls, and on strikes I was out there with my dad on the picket lines, and that was in the kitchen with my mom. So I got to see the union, the effectiveness of unions and participated in a lot of their events.

Larry Lemmons:
When did you first start noticing how organized labor dealt with immigration issues?

Ed Pastor:
Well, that union was very progressive. And it organized Mexican-Americans, and that particular instance there was no delineation of immigrant, nonimmigrant because most of the miners, the underground miners, and the laborers were Mexican-American, or Mexican that they were a great training ground for leadership development. And so the president was Bob Barcone, Pete Benitas was the treasurer so the officers were all Hispanics. So we saw the union as basically an ally of the Hispanic community because that's where we would go, it was a safe haven for us.

Larry Lemmons:
Well, historically there's been a tension sometimes between labor and immigration. On the one hand, obviously labor wants to embrace immigration because it makes their numbers more powerful if they organize it. On the other hand, some would say that an uncontrolled immigration actually works to bring wages down.

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think that the immigration issue with Pete Wilson and proposition in California proudly made the issue of immigration more political. It developed into an ideology for the conservatives and neo conservatives, of a litmus test for the conservatives, and it brought the issue where you begin thinking of immigration as a political issue. I think initially the unions, especially those that were skilled or semi skilled Unions, were concerned about the wages. But I can tell you that when I came to Phoenix in the early 1960's and into the 1970's, that the unions here, especially the ones that relied on labor skill, laborers, local 383, their main membership was either black or Mexican, and it didn't matter if they were undocumented, documented, or citizens. And so, but I think after the proposition, people, and unions started seeing that there was a debate of whether or not the immigration was suppressing wages.

Larry Lemmons:
Is opinion within organized labor divided on that issue?

Ed Pastor:
I think the opinion is divided. About four or five years ago the Hispanic caucus in congress started talking about immigration and possible remedies, and we were thinking more in line of the 84 action, 1984 action that dealt with amnesty. And then the thought came about guest workers, and there was a reluctance because at least with the Hispanic caucus, and even with labor, because at that time everybody thought about the 1950 project of the Braceros where the Braceros basically were brought in and worked and wages were really suppressed, and they were very few rights. I think today that there is a division. Here locally, I went to a human rights rally with the unions, and half the unions, laborers, the roofers, and ironworkers, the ones that rely on unskilled or a labor type of pool that their membership was highly Hispanic. And I would tell you probably great Paul bill, the, a lot of them were undocumented. So you have organizations like SEIU who relies on the population of immigrant, the janitors, the service workers, which are very much involved in the immigration reform. Probably the skilled unions, the carpenters and that type of union, may not be in favor of guest programs, but I think on the issue of earned legalization where people, 12 million x that there be a process of learned immigration, learned legalization. I think you'll find that the unions, including the national chamber of commerce, would be supportive.

Larry Lemmons:
How difficult is it for unions to organize in a right to work state, as we are? Obviously if someone is undocumented and they're trying to organize within a workplace, they're going to be the first ones out.

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think it's common with undocumented, also people who are citizens. Because this is right to work. You'll find that that's probably a procedure and a practice that's used against American citizens who are trying to organize, where once they expose themselves, as union or wantinZXg to bring in unions, that there's ways of basically weeding them out as troublemakers, etc. With the undocumented, obviously it's very difficult for them to bring charges, unfair labor practices, it's very difficult to bring on EEOC cases, and so with the person who is undocumented, because they don't have basic rights as given by legislation, given to citizens, and legal residents, that basically an employer can say, well you're gone. And that's it. Where if someone is a citizen, they may find a reason to appeal the firing, whether it be discrimination or unfair labor practice, etc.

Larry Lemmons:
In California, the A.F.L./C.I.O. is working with an organization of day laborers to come to some sort of agreement as to how they can organize, but they're not doing that in Arizona. Why not?

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think basically it's this right to work legislation, but I would tell you that the in the construction industry that the unions who are involved in construction are employing organizers, Hispanic organizers and are trying to organize the undocumented because they know that that's who's being employed, that's who's working, and so they want to make sure they're able to organize them. Knowing that the employer may retaliate, but they also know that because of the demand for this labor pool, that retaliation by just getting rid of them is not as easy as it could have been.

Larry Lemmons: What do you think should happen in terms of immigration reform in the future?

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think that obviously number one, we need to secure the borders. I think that's issue number one. And the piece of legislation that I support is the one that's supported by Jim Kobe and Jeff Blake. Which number one, it would secure the borders, ensure that we mitigate the best we can the undocumented traffic north. Secondly, it would create a guest worker program that would ensure basic rights for the workers coming in, and that there are willing employers that would hire them, but the responsibility is on that willing employer, that there are basic rights for that employee and so that you just don't get rid of them because they're here legally, but you just -- because they're not citizens, you can get rid of them. And I think there is some contention when some unions, of whether the rights will go far enough in terms of organizing. And then thirdly, the third part would be that you have approximately 12 million people who are undocumented. And there should be a process that would have them earn their legalization.

Larry Lemmons:
Thank you, congressman, for visiting us today.

Ed Pastor: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Joining me now to talk more about the current state of labor is the executive director of the Arizona A.F.L./C.I.O., Michael McGrath. Michael, Thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Michael McGrath:
Glad to be here Jose.

Jose Cardenas: Michael, the issue between labor and immigrants has, there's a history there. Tell us what the current status of it is, and maybe review a little bit about what's going on in the past.

Michael McGrath:
Well I think the simple history is the labor movement has always been an immigrant movement. I mean, honestly, if you look back over the last century and a half or two centuries, you'll find an enormous amount of immigrants involved in the labor movement. Ultimately I think all of us were immigrants at one time, right? So in the recent past the issue around immigrants has become, what do I want to say? The issue around immigrants has become so volatile inside of the labor movement, as it began with the slowing or dragging economies that we ran into in the late 1970's, 1980's, etc. Where the starvation around jobs causes tension certainly for union members because of the fact that the good jobs were disappearing, and many times the good jobs were disappearing because of the fact that cheap labor was being brought into the United States to do those. Now what we see, is of course we see, all the good jobs being shipped out of the country.

Jose Cardenas:
You had, for example, in California in the time period you were talking about, the united farm workers raising concerns with what they viewed as undocumented workers coming in, taking their jobs. So there was that tension there, and yet now in California the A.F.L./C.I.O. is working with immigrant day laborers. What can you tell us about that and is Arizona going to do something similar?

Michael McGrath:
Well, I can't speak specifically for California, but what I can do is give you the overview. California is certainly working with day labor centers. The national A.F.L./C.I.O. has agreed to a partnership, an affiliation, as it were but a partnership with a national day laborer organizing network. And that partnership gives local labor movements such as state federations or central labor councils, the ability to actually involve day labor centers through this network in their local deliberations as it were with voice but no vote. Now, what can be accomplished through that? Varying things can be accomplished. Day labor centers are primarily there to, they're community organizations that are there to protect day laborers, be they immigrant be they not immigrant. Certainly in the southwest what we see is primarily immigrant labor. They help them with legal issues, they help them with immigration issues, they help them primarily with wage and hour issues, the exploitation of day laborers by unscrupulous employers. That's primarily what their functions run into. In California, just like many of us across the country, what our goal is, is our goal is to see that workers are treated justly, regardless of whether they have immigrant status or not. All workers need to be treated justly. In Arizona, we are always open to working with workers, whatever that worker happens to be or wherever that worker happens to be from. And that if in fact there is an alliance with day labor centers in Arizona, that will be decided by the executive council of the A.FL./C.I.O.

Jose Cardenas:
Michael, the suggestion has been that perceived sense that organized labor has softened its stance against illegal immigration is because of a decline in membership and they see this as potential new membership to boost the ranks of organized labor. What do you say about that?

Michael McGrath:
Well, I'll agree that organized labor will organize anybody and everybody.

Jose Cardenas:
But in the past there seemed to be more of an opposition to it in keeping people without the proper papers out of the country to protect their existing base, and now there seems to be a movement toward organizing people who are here illegally.

Michael McGrath:
Well, I think all of us have, whether we fight it or whether we embrace it, all of us at some point or another at the very least recognize increasing globalism. And that increasing globalism is having effect on work. Whether that is workers from other countries coming in here or whether that is work that was traditionally done in America moving to other countries. So that as we see the flow, the ebb and flow of work, be that workers in or work going out of this country, organized labor has taken a very pragmatic position and a very just position, I believe, in the fact what our focus will be is on workers. In the past was there a harder stance? Yes. Would everybody in organized labor right now agree that what we need to do wholeheartedly is go out and organize every immigrant? No. But I have many, dozens of unions that are actively organizing currently. And the education curve on that is this, these -- it is not the migrant worker who is taking your job, it's not the immigrant worker who is driving down your wage. It's the fact that they are not unionized that is driving down your wage. No different than if it was 10,000 college kids, you know, because they close the colleges. We're all now in the construction industry, building homes. There is no difference. Wage, the driving down of wages, is based on lack of organization, not the color of skin.

Jose Cardenas:
Michael McGrath, A.F.L. C.I.O., we're going to leave it at that point. Thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Michael McGrath:
Thank you Jose.

Jose Cardenas:
If you would like a transcript of tonight's show or would like to learn about future topics, please log on to our website at azpbs.org, and click on Horizon. That's tonight's Horizon. Thanks for joining us.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Labor


  • AFL-CIO Executive Director Michael McGrath talks about current efforts to deal with the immigration issue.
Guests:
  • Rebekah Friend - Chair, Arizona Minimum Wage Coalition and proponent of Proposition 202
  • Darcy Olsen - President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, and opponent of Proposition of 202
  • Ed Pastor - U.S. Congressman
Category: Immigration

View Transcript
Jose Cardenas:
Tonight on Horizon, voters in November will be considering a minimum wage raise for Arizonans. We debate the issue. A conversation with congressman Ed Pastor on unions and immigration, and a look at how unions are dealing with the immigration issue today.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possibly by contributions from the friends of Eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening, and thanks for joining us tonight on this special edition of Horizon. I'm José Cárdenas, filling in for Michael Grant. November 7 Arizona voters will be asked to consider Proposition 202, which will raise the minimum wage in Arizona to $6.75 an hour from the current $5.15. Cost of living raises would follow each year. The Arizona minimum wage coalition was the organization that got Prop 202 on the ballot. Here from the coalition is its Chair, Rebecca Friend. Arguing against the proposition, the President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, Darcy Olsen. Thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Rebekah Friend:
Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Rebecca, let's start with you. Why the need in the view of the coalition for a minimum wage initiative?

Rebekah Friend:
Well we had been trying at the legislature for the past four years to even obtain hearings on a bill raising the minimum wage. And we were unsuccessful. And also as you've seen, Congress has refused to do anything for the past 10 years. So we decided to take the initiative to the voters and see what they thought about raising the minimum wage.

Jose Cardenas:
Now Darcy, as I understand, the institute doesn't actually take a position on the initiative as such, but there are concerns that the institute has with the minimum wage increase, or a state version of that. Tell us what they are.

Darcy Olsen:
Right. Well I think where Rebecca and I definitely agree that this is a moral issue, and no one likes the idea that you can work hard in America and still be poor. No one likes that. And the question on the table is, is a minimum wage increase the way to solve that problem? This is a 30\% increase in the minimum wage for the state of Arizona, and I can tell that you if my payroll at the Goldwater Institute- we're a small business, and it went up 30\%, it would be great for the workers I could keep and pay that extra 30\%, but I couldn't keep paying everybody. And some people I'd either have to cut benefits, reduce hours, or there would be jobs cut. And the best estimates in Arizona show that we could lose up to 9,000 jobs if this were implemented. So while the people who retain their jobs would be earning a higher wage, the trade-off to that is the number of people who would no longer be employed or the jobs that would not be created. So that is a cause for concern.

Jose Cardenas:
So is the primary cause for concern that the size of the proposed increase as opposed to whether we have one or not, a state version of the federal law?

Darcy Olsen:
The size of it is certainly a concern, and the larger it is the more you're going to have this offset in unemployment and job loss. I mean, if you didn't have that, then why stop at $6.75, why not make it $100 an hour, right? Obviously along that curve employers can only afford to pay so much before they have to cut the benefits or cut the hours or cut positions all together. So, but there is a principle at stake too, which is that if I want to work for you for $5 an hour and I want to learn how to do the cameras in here, why should that be against the law? I mean, after all, this is a free country, this isn't France. And so there should be that freedom of contract between an employer and a potential employee.

Jose Cardenas:
But isn't that a bridge we crossed a long time ago when we instituted the federal minimum wage law?

Darcy Olsen:
Well the federal minimum wage law certainly in a lot of cases does get in the way of that, but this of course exacerbates that situation.

Jose Cardenas:
Rebekah-

Rebekah Friend:
Yes.

Jose Cardenas:
What Darcy was talking about, is what do you here in opposition to minimum wage increases, whether at the federal or state level, and that is it impacts mostly small businesses and that the very people it's intended to benefit suffer because they won't be able to get jobs. What do you say to that?

Rebekah Friend:
Well, I think this is an issue. I agree with Darcy, that this is a moral issue. But I think how we view this moral issue is completely different. This is an issue about hard-working Arizonans, people who are working 40 hours a week and still not making enough to be above the poverty limit. In this initiative you'll see an exemption for businesses, small businesses with over $500,000 a year. This will not impact them. There are no significant studies that show an impact or negative job loss. This will become a war of stats and studies. And what we're trying to keep focused on is the people who will mostly benefit. The 145,000 working Arizonans who will benefit.

Darcy Olsen:
If-

Jose Cardenas:
Tell me again who the exemption's for- I'm sorry, Darcy, I just want to be clear.

Rebekah Friend: The exemption is for businesses over $500,000 a year in gross revenues.

Jose Cardenas:
They're-

Rebekah Friend:
They're under.

Jose Cardenas:
Under?

Rebekah Friend:
I'm sorry, yes.

Jose Cardenas:
Okay. Darcy?

Darcy Olsen:
Yeah. If I may, on this idea that there is no evidence that this will cause job loss, I mean, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan said overwhelmingly that evidence is overwhelming that the minimum wage does destroy jobs. And as I said, if that weren't the case, why would we stop at $6.75, why not make it $8, 10, $20 why not $1,000 an hour? Well, because there is a point that employers only have so much they can pay, and eventually it will cut in and they can't afford it. So you can't repeal the law of supply and demand as much as we'd like to. So again, it's a trade-off. You can raise some people up more, but the trade-off is that other folks will lose their jobs. And again the estimates in Arizona is up to 9,000 jobs. So that's a pretty serious trade-off.

Jose Cardenas:
But is that only at a certain percentage level? In other words, is there an increase of the minimum wage that would not have the kind of serious impact that you're talking about?

Darcy Olsen: Yes. If it were much lower, the estimates, the best estimates and the most recent coming out of the Cleveland fed would, and the consensus estimate is that for every 10\% increase, you're going to have a 1-2\% loss in jobs. So right now this is a 30\% increase, so you are looking at a 3-6\% job loss. That's expected, you never know, but there's a good chance of that. As we said, I mean what if your payroll here went up 30\%? Something's got to give. It assumes that there's a profit margin in these companies of that much. And most companies just simply don't operate with those kinds of profit margins.

Jose Cardenas:
There's a recent "New York Times" article that suggests that there's been just a phenomenal increase in profits generally among businesses, and yet nothing comparable by way of increase in real wages.

Darcy Olsen:
Well, it's interesting that you'd say that, I think there are a number of ways to look at this. And one of the more interesting components of that, when you tie it to the minimum wage issue, is that in Arizona a lot of employers that traditionally paid the minimum wage, places like Burger King and Wendy's-- Wendy's was my first job in high school at $3.15 an hour or sorry, $3.35 at the time-- is that they actually have to pay higher than the minimum wage because they can't attract workers because the economy is doing so well. So a lot of these places you think of as paying the minimum wage are actually paying more. In other words, the market will dictate, and employers will pay what people are worth to that place of business.

Jose Cardenas:
So Rebecca, who actually will benefit from this? If McDonald's and Wendy's are already paying above the minimum wage, who is going to benefit?

Rebekah Friend:
Well, I think the range of workers who are making at minimum wage or below is huge, including day care workers, nursing home, health care people, some food service, certainly. But I think we need to get back to the issue. While we're arguing economics we're talking about 145,000 working Arizonans who are fulfilling their part of the contract, which is to work 40 hours a week and try to make a living for their family who will benefit from this on January 1 of 2007.

Darcy Olsen:
Another interesting statistic about minimum wage workers is that there's this I think a misperception that once you earn that that's all you earn. And the truth is that 30\% of people within the first year are already raised right out of that. It tends to be an entry point into the labor force, not an end point. And so like I was saying, that was my first job, for many people the lowest skilled, that's where our entry point into the marketplace. And of course as we always said--

Jose Cardenas:
If they don't advance, is this something that people can live on? The current minimum wage in Arizona?

Darcy Olsen:
Well I think most folks would say that a job, any job, even if it's low paying, is better than no job at all. And of course that is the trade-off that we're talking about here. You can't get these increases in a vacuum.

Rebekah Friend:
Now let's talk about who is getting minimum wage. 74\% are over the age of 20. 58\% are women. And a third of those are primary wage earners in the family. That's the population we're talking about. The assumption that this is a starting wage, where everybody goes on to greater things is not true. That is not the real world. The fact that these people are living in poverty and trying to support their families is not fair, it's not just, and this is one way of addressing that.

Jose Cardenas:
Go ahead Darcy.

Darcy Olsen:
Fewer than 5\% of all Arizonans who are working, earn the minimum wage or less, and most of those who do earn the minimum wage are actually part of families, they are either teenagers who are making just trying to get extra income, or they're somebody taking an extra job on the side or sometimes they're retired folks who just want a job to keep busy. So there, very few of these workers, I think it's less than 1\%, actually are supporting a family on the minimum wage. While there are some families, it's I think blown far out of proportion to the actual reality of that situation.

Jose Cardenas:
Let me ask one last question. And it has to do with the politics of this. It's an election coming up, and the suggestion has been that the minimum wage is on the ballot, not only in Arizona, but in other states as an effort to bring out the democratic vote, it's kind of the equivalent of gay marriage issues for the republicans. What do you say about that?

Rebekah Friend:
Certainly, and I've heard that argument. We have had three polls on this issue. The poll numbers continue to climb. They cut across party lines, the issue cuts across socioeconomic, it cuts across gender, it cuts across ethnicity. This is an issue that Arizonans want to address, and that's why we brought it to the ballot, and hopefully they'll vote for it and pass it on November 7.

Jose Cardenas:
Is that your sense too, Darcy, not whether it wins or loses, but the broad popularity of this measure?

Darcy Olsen:
It is a popular measure. And, like I said, nobody likes the idea that people can work hard and still be in poverty. And so -- but again, the question is, is the minimum wage increase the best way to address that? And I think that we really need to be aware of that trade-off between some folks getting higher wages, but then these other folks losing their jobs.

Jose Cardenas:
We're going to have to leave it at that. Darcy Olson, Rebecca, thank you.
U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor was lauded by the A.F.L. C.I.O. as having a pro union voting record. Pastor has also been in the forefront of current immigration issues. The labor movement has sometimes walked with the immigration movement and sometimes against it. Larry Lemmons talked with Congressman Pastor about this problematic relationship.

Larry Lemmons:
You were born and raised in Claypool, Arizona, is that about the time you noticed organized labor and the effect it had on people?

Ed Pastor:
My father was very active in the union. He was a shop steward, and all my uncles and all my family were members of the mine, mill, and smelter workers. And what happened in the 50's, they were deemed to be too radical and communist oriented, and so later the united steelworkers of America came in and there was a jurisdictional battle, but steelworkers represented us, and so I remember as a young kid seeing salt of the earth in the union halls, and on strikes I was out there with my dad on the picket lines, and that was in the kitchen with my mom. So I got to see the union, the effectiveness of unions and participated in a lot of their events.

Larry Lemmons:
When did you first start noticing how organized labor dealt with immigration issues?

Ed Pastor:
Well, that union was very progressive. And it organized Mexican-Americans, and that particular instance there was no delineation of immigrant, nonimmigrant because most of the miners, the underground miners, and the laborers were Mexican-American, or Mexican that they were a great training ground for leadership development. And so the president was Bob Barcone, Pete Benitas was the treasurer so the officers were all Hispanics. So we saw the union as basically an ally of the Hispanic community because that's where we would go, it was a safe haven for us.

Larry Lemmons:
Well, historically there's been a tension sometimes between labor and immigration. On the one hand, obviously labor wants to embrace immigration because it makes their numbers more powerful if they organize it. On the other hand, some would say that an uncontrolled immigration actually works to bring wages down.

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think that the immigration issue with Pete Wilson and proposition in California proudly made the issue of immigration more political. It developed into an ideology for the conservatives and neo conservatives, of a litmus test for the conservatives, and it brought the issue where you begin thinking of immigration as a political issue. I think initially the unions, especially those that were skilled or semi skilled Unions, were concerned about the wages. But I can tell you that when I came to Phoenix in the early 1960's and into the 1970's, that the unions here, especially the ones that relied on labor skill, laborers, local 383, their main membership was either black or Mexican, and it didn't matter if they were undocumented, documented, or citizens. And so, but I think after the proposition, people, and unions started seeing that there was a debate of whether or not the immigration was suppressing wages.

Larry Lemmons:
Is opinion within organized labor divided on that issue?

Ed Pastor:
I think the opinion is divided. About four or five years ago the Hispanic caucus in congress started talking about immigration and possible remedies, and we were thinking more in line of the 84 action, 1984 action that dealt with amnesty. And then the thought came about guest workers, and there was a reluctance because at least with the Hispanic caucus, and even with labor, because at that time everybody thought about the 1950 project of the Braceros where the Braceros basically were brought in and worked and wages were really suppressed, and they were very few rights. I think today that there is a division. Here locally, I went to a human rights rally with the unions, and half the unions, laborers, the roofers, and ironworkers, the ones that rely on unskilled or a labor type of pool that their membership was highly Hispanic. And I would tell you probably great Paul bill, the, a lot of them were undocumented. So you have organizations like SEIU who relies on the population of immigrant, the janitors, the service workers, which are very much involved in the immigration reform. Probably the skilled unions, the carpenters and that type of union, may not be in favor of guest programs, but I think on the issue of earned legalization where people, 12 million x that there be a process of learned immigration, learned legalization. I think you'll find that the unions, including the national chamber of commerce, would be supportive.

Larry Lemmons:
How difficult is it for unions to organize in a right to work state, as we are? Obviously if someone is undocumented and they're trying to organize within a workplace, they're going to be the first ones out.

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think it's common with undocumented, also people who are citizens. Because this is right to work. You'll find that that's probably a procedure and a practice that's used against American citizens who are trying to organize, where once they expose themselves, as union or wantinZXg to bring in unions, that there's ways of basically weeding them out as troublemakers, etc. With the undocumented, obviously it's very difficult for them to bring charges, unfair labor practices, it's very difficult to bring on EEOC cases, and so with the person who is undocumented, because they don't have basic rights as given by legislation, given to citizens, and legal residents, that basically an employer can say, well you're gone. And that's it. Where if someone is a citizen, they may find a reason to appeal the firing, whether it be discrimination or unfair labor practice, etc.

Larry Lemmons:
In California, the A.F.L./C.I.O. is working with an organization of day laborers to come to some sort of agreement as to how they can organize, but they're not doing that in Arizona. Why not?

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think basically it's this right to work legislation, but I would tell you that the in the construction industry that the unions who are involved in construction are employing organizers, Hispanic organizers and are trying to organize the undocumented because they know that that's who's being employed, that's who's working, and so they want to make sure they're able to organize them. Knowing that the employer may retaliate, but they also know that because of the demand for this labor pool, that retaliation by just getting rid of them is not as easy as it could have been.

Larry Lemmons: What do you think should happen in terms of immigration reform in the future?

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think that obviously number one, we need to secure the borders. I think that's issue number one. And the piece of legislation that I support is the one that's supported by Jim Kobe and Jeff Blake. Which number one, it would secure the borders, ensure that we mitigate the best we can the undocumented traffic north. Secondly, it would create a guest worker program that would ensure basic rights for the workers coming in, and that there are willing employers that would hire them, but the responsibility is on that willing employer, that there are basic rights for that employee and so that you just don't get rid of them because they're here legally, but you just -- because they're not citizens, you can get rid of them. And I think there is some contention when some unions, of whether the rights will go far enough in terms of organizing. And then thirdly, the third part would be that you have approximately 12 million people who are undocumented. And there should be a process that would have them earn their legalization.

Larry Lemmons:
Thank you, congressman, for visiting us today.

Ed Pastor: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Joining me now to talk more about the current state of labor is the executive director of the Arizona A.F.L./C.I.O., Michael McGrath. Michael, Thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Michael McGrath:
Glad to be here Jose.

Jose Cardenas: Michael, the issue between labor and immigrants has, there's a history there. Tell us what the current status of it is, and maybe review a little bit about what's going on in the past.

Michael McGrath:
Well I think the simple history is the labor movement has always been an immigrant movement. I mean, honestly, if you look back over the last century and a half or two centuries, you'll find an enormous amount of immigrants involved in the labor movement. Ultimately I think all of us were immigrants at one time, right? So in the recent past the issue around immigrants has become, what do I want to say? The issue around immigrants has become so volatile inside of the labor movement, as it began with the slowing or dragging economies that we ran into in the late 1970's, 1980's, etc. Where the starvation around jobs causes tension certainly for union members because of the fact that the good jobs were disappearing, and many times the good jobs were disappearing because of the fact that cheap labor was being brought into the United States to do those. Now what we see, is of course we see, all the good jobs being shipped out of the country.

Jose Cardenas:
You had, for example, in California in the time period you were talking about, the united farm workers raising concerns with what they viewed as undocumented workers coming in, taking their jobs. So there was that tension there, and yet now in California the A.F.L./C.I.O. is working with immigrant day laborers. What can you tell us about that and is Arizona going to do something similar?

Michael McGrath:
Well, I can't speak specifically for California, but what I can do is give you the overview. California is certainly working with day labor centers. The national A.F.L./C.I.O. has agreed to a partnership, an affiliation, as it were but a partnership with a national day laborer organizing network. And that partnership gives local labor movements such as state federations or central labor councils, the ability to actually involve day labor centers through this network in their local deliberations as it were with voice but no vote. Now, what can be accomplished through that? Varying things can be accomplished. Day labor centers are primarily there to, they're community organizations that are there to protect day laborers, be they immigrant be they not immigrant. Certainly in the southwest what we see is primarily immigrant labor. They help them with legal issues, they help them with immigration issues, they help them primarily with wage and hour issues, the exploitation of day laborers by unscrupulous employers. That's primarily what their functions run into. In California, just like many of us across the country, what our goal is, is our goal is to see that workers are treated justly, regardless of whether they have immigrant status or not. All workers need to be treated justly. In Arizona, we are always open to working with workers, whatever that worker happens to be or wherever that worker happens to be from. And that if in fact there is an alliance with day labor centers in Arizona, that will be decided by the executive council of the A.FL./C.I.O.

Jose Cardenas:
Michael, the suggestion has been that perceived sense that organized labor has softened its stance against illegal immigration is because of a decline in membership and they see this as potential new membership to boost the ranks of organized labor. What do you say about that?

Michael McGrath:
Well, I'll agree that organized labor will organize anybody and everybody.

Jose Cardenas:
But in the past there seemed to be more of an opposition to it in keeping people without the proper papers out of the country to protect their existing base, and now there seems to be a movement toward organizing people who are here illegally.

Michael McGrath:
Well, I think all of us have, whether we fight it or whether we embrace it, all of us at some point or another at the very least recognize increasing globalism. And that increasing globalism is having effect on work. Whether that is workers from other countries coming in here or whether that is work that was traditionally done in America moving to other countries. So that as we see the flow, the ebb and flow of work, be that workers in or work going out of this country, organized labor has taken a very pragmatic position and a very just position, I believe, in the fact what our focus will be is on workers. In the past was there a harder stance? Yes. Would everybody in organized labor right now agree that what we need to do wholeheartedly is go out and organize every immigrant? No. But I have many, dozens of unions that are actively organizing currently. And the education curve on that is this, these -- it is not the migrant worker who is taking your job, it's not the immigrant worker who is driving down your wage. It's the fact that they are not unionized that is driving down your wage. No different than if it was 10,000 college kids, you know, because they close the colleges. We're all now in the construction industry, building homes. There is no difference. Wage, the driving down of wages, is based on lack of organization, not the color of skin.

Jose Cardenas:
Michael McGrath, A.F.L. C.I.O., we're going to leave it at that point. Thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Michael McGrath:
Thank you Jose.

Jose Cardenas:
If you would like a transcript of tonight's show or would like to learn about future topics, please log on to our website at azpbs.org, and click on Horizon. That's tonight's Horizon. Thanks for joining us.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Proposition 202


  • This HORIZON installment offers a discussion about the proposition that would raise the minimum wage in Arizona to $6.75 from $5.15. Guests include Rebekah Friend, chairwoman of the Arizona Minimum Wage Coalition and Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute.
Guests:
  • Rebekah Friend - Chair, Arizona Minimum Wage Coalition and proponent of Proposition 202
  • Darcy Olsen - President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, and opponent of Proposition of 202
  • Ed Pastor - U.S. Congressman
Category: Elections

View Transcript
Jose Cardenas:
Tonight on Horizon, voters in November will be considering a minimum wage raise for Arizonans. We debate the issue. A conversation with congressman Ed Pastor on unions and immigration, and a look at how unions are dealing with the immigration issue today.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possibly by contributions from the friends of Eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Good evening, and thanks for joining us tonight on this special edition of Horizon. I'm José Cárdenas, filling in for Michael Grant. November 7 Arizona voters will be asked to consider Proposition 202, which will raise the minimum wage in Arizona to $6.75 an hour from the current $5.15. Cost of living raises would follow each year. The Arizona minimum wage coalition was the organization that got Prop 202 on the ballot. Here from the coalition is its Chair, Rebecca Friend. Arguing against the proposition, the President and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, Darcy Olsen. Thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Rebekah Friend:
Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Rebecca, let's start with you. Why the need in the view of the coalition for a minimum wage initiative?

Rebekah Friend:
Well we had been trying at the legislature for the past four years to even obtain hearings on a bill raising the minimum wage. And we were unsuccessful. And also as you've seen, Congress has refused to do anything for the past 10 years. So we decided to take the initiative to the voters and see what they thought about raising the minimum wage.

Jose Cardenas:
Now Darcy, as I understand, the institute doesn't actually take a position on the initiative as such, but there are concerns that the institute has with the minimum wage increase, or a state version of that. Tell us what they are.

Darcy Olsen:
Right. Well I think where Rebecca and I definitely agree that this is a moral issue, and no one likes the idea that you can work hard in America and still be poor. No one likes that. And the question on the table is, is a minimum wage increase the way to solve that problem? This is a 30\% increase in the minimum wage for the state of Arizona, and I can tell that you if my payroll at the Goldwater Institute- we're a small business, and it went up 30\%, it would be great for the workers I could keep and pay that extra 30\%, but I couldn't keep paying everybody. And some people I'd either have to cut benefits, reduce hours, or there would be jobs cut. And the best estimates in Arizona show that we could lose up to 9,000 jobs if this were implemented. So while the people who retain their jobs would be earning a higher wage, the trade-off to that is the number of people who would no longer be employed or the jobs that would not be created. So that is a cause for concern.

Jose Cardenas:
So is the primary cause for concern that the size of the proposed increase as opposed to whether we have one or not, a state version of the federal law?

Darcy Olsen:
The size of it is certainly a concern, and the larger it is the more you're going to have this offset in unemployment and job loss. I mean, if you didn't have that, then why stop at $6.75, why not make it $100 an hour, right? Obviously along that curve employers can only afford to pay so much before they have to cut the benefits or cut the hours or cut positions all together. So, but there is a principle at stake too, which is that if I want to work for you for $5 an hour and I want to learn how to do the cameras in here, why should that be against the law? I mean, after all, this is a free country, this isn't France. And so there should be that freedom of contract between an employer and a potential employee.

Jose Cardenas:
But isn't that a bridge we crossed a long time ago when we instituted the federal minimum wage law?

Darcy Olsen:
Well the federal minimum wage law certainly in a lot of cases does get in the way of that, but this of course exacerbates that situation.

Jose Cardenas:
Rebekah-

Rebekah Friend:
Yes.

Jose Cardenas:
What Darcy was talking about, is what do you here in opposition to minimum wage increases, whether at the federal or state level, and that is it impacts mostly small businesses and that the very people it's intended to benefit suffer because they won't be able to get jobs. What do you say to that?

Rebekah Friend:
Well, I think this is an issue. I agree with Darcy, that this is a moral issue. But I think how we view this moral issue is completely different. This is an issue about hard-working Arizonans, people who are working 40 hours a week and still not making enough to be above the poverty limit. In this initiative you'll see an exemption for businesses, small businesses with over $500,000 a year. This will not impact them. There are no significant studies that show an impact or negative job loss. This will become a war of stats and studies. And what we're trying to keep focused on is the people who will mostly benefit. The 145,000 working Arizonans who will benefit.

Darcy Olsen:
If-

Jose Cardenas:
Tell me again who the exemption's for- I'm sorry, Darcy, I just want to be clear.

Rebekah Friend: The exemption is for businesses over $500,000 a year in gross revenues.

Jose Cardenas:
They're-

Rebekah Friend:
They're under.

Jose Cardenas:
Under?

Rebekah Friend:
I'm sorry, yes.

Jose Cardenas:
Okay. Darcy?

Darcy Olsen:
Yeah. If I may, on this idea that there is no evidence that this will cause job loss, I mean, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan said overwhelmingly that evidence is overwhelming that the minimum wage does destroy jobs. And as I said, if that weren't the case, why would we stop at $6.75, why not make it $8, 10, $20 why not $1,000 an hour? Well, because there is a point that employers only have so much they can pay, and eventually it will cut in and they can't afford it. So you can't repeal the law of supply and demand as much as we'd like to. So again, it's a trade-off. You can raise some people up more, but the trade-off is that other folks will lose their jobs. And again the estimates in Arizona is up to 9,000 jobs. So that's a pretty serious trade-off.

Jose Cardenas:
But is that only at a certain percentage level? In other words, is there an increase of the minimum wage that would not have the kind of serious impact that you're talking about?

Darcy Olsen: Yes. If it were much lower, the estimates, the best estimates and the most recent coming out of the Cleveland fed would, and the consensus estimate is that for every 10\% increase, you're going to have a 1-2\% loss in jobs. So right now this is a 30\% increase, so you are looking at a 3-6\% job loss. That's expected, you never know, but there's a good chance of that. As we said, I mean what if your payroll here went up 30\%? Something's got to give. It assumes that there's a profit margin in these companies of that much. And most companies just simply don't operate with those kinds of profit margins.

Jose Cardenas:
There's a recent "New York Times" article that suggests that there's been just a phenomenal increase in profits generally among businesses, and yet nothing comparable by way of increase in real wages.

Darcy Olsen:
Well, it's interesting that you'd say that, I think there are a number of ways to look at this. And one of the more interesting components of that, when you tie it to the minimum wage issue, is that in Arizona a lot of employers that traditionally paid the minimum wage, places like Burger King and Wendy's-- Wendy's was my first job in high school at $3.15 an hour or sorry, $3.35 at the time-- is that they actually have to pay higher than the minimum wage because they can't attract workers because the economy is doing so well. So a lot of these places you think of as paying the minimum wage are actually paying more. In other words, the market will dictate, and employers will pay what people are worth to that place of business.

Jose Cardenas:
So Rebecca, who actually will benefit from this? If McDonald's and Wendy's are already paying above the minimum wage, who is going to benefit?

Rebekah Friend:
Well, I think the range of workers who are making at minimum wage or below is huge, including day care workers, nursing home, health care people, some food service, certainly. But I think we need to get back to the issue. While we're arguing economics we're talking about 145,000 working Arizonans who are fulfilling their part of the contract, which is to work 40 hours a week and try to make a living for their family who will benefit from this on January 1 of 2007.

Darcy Olsen:
Another interesting statistic about minimum wage workers is that there's this I think a misperception that once you earn that that's all you earn. And the truth is that 30\% of people within the first year are already raised right out of that. It tends to be an entry point into the labor force, not an end point. And so like I was saying, that was my first job, for many people the lowest skilled, that's where our entry point into the marketplace. And of course as we always said--

Jose Cardenas:
If they don't advance, is this something that people can live on? The current minimum wage in Arizona?

Darcy Olsen:
Well I think most folks would say that a job, any job, even if it's low paying, is better than no job at all. And of course that is the trade-off that we're talking about here. You can't get these increases in a vacuum.

Rebekah Friend:
Now let's talk about who is getting minimum wage. 74\% are over the age of 20. 58\% are women. And a third of those are primary wage earners in the family. That's the population we're talking about. The assumption that this is a starting wage, where everybody goes on to greater things is not true. That is not the real world. The fact that these people are living in poverty and trying to support their families is not fair, it's not just, and this is one way of addressing that.

Jose Cardenas:
Go ahead Darcy.

Darcy Olsen:
Fewer than 5\% of all Arizonans who are working, earn the minimum wage or less, and most of those who do earn the minimum wage are actually part of families, they are either teenagers who are making just trying to get extra income, or they're somebody taking an extra job on the side or sometimes they're retired folks who just want a job to keep busy. So there, very few of these workers, I think it's less than 1\%, actually are supporting a family on the minimum wage. While there are some families, it's I think blown far out of proportion to the actual reality of that situation.

Jose Cardenas:
Let me ask one last question. And it has to do with the politics of this. It's an election coming up, and the suggestion has been that the minimum wage is on the ballot, not only in Arizona, but in other states as an effort to bring out the democratic vote, it's kind of the equivalent of gay marriage issues for the republicans. What do you say about that?

Rebekah Friend:
Certainly, and I've heard that argument. We have had three polls on this issue. The poll numbers continue to climb. They cut across party lines, the issue cuts across socioeconomic, it cuts across gender, it cuts across ethnicity. This is an issue that Arizonans want to address, and that's why we brought it to the ballot, and hopefully they'll vote for it and pass it on November 7.

Jose Cardenas:
Is that your sense too, Darcy, not whether it wins or loses, but the broad popularity of this measure?

Darcy Olsen:
It is a popular measure. And, like I said, nobody likes the idea that people can work hard and still be in poverty. And so -- but again, the question is, is the minimum wage increase the best way to address that? And I think that we really need to be aware of that trade-off between some folks getting higher wages, but then these other folks losing their jobs.

Jose Cardenas:
We're going to have to leave it at that. Darcy Olson, Rebecca, thank you.
U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor was lauded by the A.F.L. C.I.O. as having a pro union voting record. Pastor has also been in the forefront of current immigration issues. The labor movement has sometimes walked with the immigration movement and sometimes against it. Larry Lemmons talked with Congressman Pastor about this problematic relationship.

Larry Lemmons:
You were born and raised in Claypool, Arizona, is that about the time you noticed organized labor and the effect it had on people?

Ed Pastor:
My father was very active in the union. He was a shop steward, and all my uncles and all my family were members of the mine, mill, and smelter workers. And what happened in the 50's, they were deemed to be too radical and communist oriented, and so later the united steelworkers of America came in and there was a jurisdictional battle, but steelworkers represented us, and so I remember as a young kid seeing salt of the earth in the union halls, and on strikes I was out there with my dad on the picket lines, and that was in the kitchen with my mom. So I got to see the union, the effectiveness of unions and participated in a lot of their events.

Larry Lemmons:
When did you first start noticing how organized labor dealt with immigration issues?

Ed Pastor:
Well, that union was very progressive. And it organized Mexican-Americans, and that particular instance there was no delineation of immigrant, nonimmigrant because most of the miners, the underground miners, and the laborers were Mexican-American, or Mexican that they were a great training ground for leadership development. And so the president was Bob Barcone, Pete Benitas was the treasurer so the officers were all Hispanics. So we saw the union as basically an ally of the Hispanic community because that's where we would go, it was a safe haven for us.

Larry Lemmons:
Well, historically there's been a tension sometimes between labor and immigration. On the one hand, obviously labor wants to embrace immigration because it makes their numbers more powerful if they organize it. On the other hand, some would say that an uncontrolled immigration actually works to bring wages down.

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think that the immigration issue with Pete Wilson and proposition in California proudly made the issue of immigration more political. It developed into an ideology for the conservatives and neo conservatives, of a litmus test for the conservatives, and it brought the issue where you begin thinking of immigration as a political issue. I think initially the unions, especially those that were skilled or semi skilled Unions, were concerned about the wages. But I can tell you that when I came to Phoenix in the early 1960's and into the 1970's, that the unions here, especially the ones that relied on labor skill, laborers, local 383, their main membership was either black or Mexican, and it didn't matter if they were undocumented, documented, or citizens. And so, but I think after the proposition, people, and unions started seeing that there was a debate of whether or not the immigration was suppressing wages.

Larry Lemmons:
Is opinion within organized labor divided on that issue?

Ed Pastor:
I think the opinion is divided. About four or five years ago the Hispanic caucus in congress started talking about immigration and possible remedies, and we were thinking more in line of the 84 action, 1984 action that dealt with amnesty. And then the thought came about guest workers, and there was a reluctance because at least with the Hispanic caucus, and even with labor, because at that time everybody thought about the 1950 project of the Braceros where the Braceros basically were brought in and worked and wages were really suppressed, and they were very few rights. I think today that there is a division. Here locally, I went to a human rights rally with the unions, and half the unions, laborers, the roofers, and ironworkers, the ones that rely on unskilled or a labor type of pool that their membership was highly Hispanic. And I would tell you probably great Paul bill, the, a lot of them were undocumented. So you have organizations like SEIU who relies on the population of immigrant, the janitors, the service workers, which are very much involved in the immigration reform. Probably the skilled unions, the carpenters and that type of union, may not be in favor of guest programs, but I think on the issue of earned legalization where people, 12 million x that there be a process of learned immigration, learned legalization. I think you'll find that the unions, including the national chamber of commerce, would be supportive.

Larry Lemmons:
How difficult is it for unions to organize in a right to work state, as we are? Obviously if someone is undocumented and they're trying to organize within a workplace, they're going to be the first ones out.

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think it's common with undocumented, also people who are citizens. Because this is right to work. You'll find that that's probably a procedure and a practice that's used against American citizens who are trying to organize, where once they expose themselves, as union or wantinZXg to bring in unions, that there's ways of basically weeding them out as troublemakers, etc. With the undocumented, obviously it's very difficult for them to bring charges, unfair labor practices, it's very difficult to bring on EEOC cases, and so with the person who is undocumented, because they don't have basic rights as given by legislation, given to citizens, and legal residents, that basically an employer can say, well you're gone. And that's it. Where if someone is a citizen, they may find a reason to appeal the firing, whether it be discrimination or unfair labor practice, etc.

Larry Lemmons:
In California, the A.F.L./C.I.O. is working with an organization of day laborers to come to some sort of agreement as to how they can organize, but they're not doing that in Arizona. Why not?

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think basically it's this right to work legislation, but I would tell you that the in the construction industry that the unions who are involved in construction are employing organizers, Hispanic organizers and are trying to organize the undocumented because they know that that's who's being employed, that's who's working, and so they want to make sure they're able to organize them. Knowing that the employer may retaliate, but they also know that because of the demand for this labor pool, that retaliation by just getting rid of them is not as easy as it could have been.

Larry Lemmons: What do you think should happen in terms of immigration reform in the future?

Ed Pastor:
Well, I think that obviously number one, we need to secure the borders. I think that's issue number one. And the piece of legislation that I support is the one that's supported by Jim Kobe and Jeff Blake. Which number one, it would secure the borders, ensure that we mitigate the best we can the undocumented traffic north. Secondly, it would create a guest worker program that would ensure basic rights for the workers coming in, and that there are willing employers that would hire them, but the responsibility is on that willing employer, that there are basic rights for that employee and so that you just don't get rid of them because they're here legally, but you just -- because they're not citizens, you can get rid of them. And I think there is some contention when some unions, of whether the rights will go far enough in terms of organizing. And then thirdly, the third part would be that you have approximately 12 million people who are undocumented. And there should be a process that would have them earn their legalization.

Larry Lemmons:
Thank you, congressman, for visiting us today.

Ed Pastor: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Joining me now to talk more about the current state of labor is the executive director of the Arizona A.F.L./C.I.O., Michael McGrath. Michael, Thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Michael McGrath:
Glad to be here Jose.

Jose Cardenas: Michael, the issue between labor and immigrants has, there's a history there. Tell us what the current status of it is, and maybe review a little bit about what's going on in the past.

Michael McGrath:
Well I think the simple history is the labor movement has always been an immigrant movement. I mean, honestly, if you look back over the last century and a half or two centuries, you'll find an enormous amount of immigrants involved in the labor movement. Ultimately I think all of us were immigrants at one time, right? So in the recent past the issue around immigrants has become, what do I want to say? The issue around immigrants has become so volatile inside of the labor movement, as it began with the slowing or dragging economies that we ran into in the late 1970's, 1980's, etc. Where the starvation around jobs causes tension certainly for union members because of the fact that the good jobs were disappearing, and many times the good jobs were disappearing because of the fact that cheap labor was being brought into the United States to do those. Now what we see, is of course we see, all the good jobs being shipped out of the country.

Jose Cardenas:
You had, for example, in California in the time period you were talking about, the united farm workers raising concerns with what they viewed as undocumented workers coming in, taking their jobs. So there was that tension there, and yet now in California the A.F.L./C.I.O. is working with immigrant day laborers. What can you tell us about that and is Arizona going to do something similar?

Michael McGrath:
Well, I can't speak specifically for California, but what I can do is give you the overview. California is certainly working with day labor centers. The national A.F.L./C.I.O. has agreed to a partnership, an affiliation, as it were but a partnership with a national day laborer organizing network. And that partnership gives local labor movements such as state federations or central labor councils, the ability to actually involve day labor centers through this network in their local deliberations as it were with voice but no vote. Now, what can be accomplished through that? Varying things can be accomplished. Day labor centers are primarily there to, they're community organizations that are there to protect day laborers, be they immigrant be they not immigrant. Certainly in the southwest what we see is primarily immigrant labor. They help them with legal issues, they help them with immigration issues, they help them primarily with wage and hour issues, the exploitation of day laborers by unscrupulous employers. That's primarily what their functions run into. In California, just like many of us across the country, what our goal is, is our goal is to see that workers are treated justly, regardless of whether they have immigrant status or not. All workers need to be treated justly. In Arizona, we are always open to working with workers, whatever that worker happens to be or wherever that worker happens to be from. And that if in fact there is an alliance with day labor centers in Arizona, that will be decided by the executive council of the A.FL./C.I.O.

Jose Cardenas:
Michael, the suggestion has been that perceived sense that organized labor has softened its stance against illegal immigration is because of a decline in membership and they see this as potential new membership to boost the ranks of organized labor. What do you say about that?

Michael McGrath:
Well, I'll agree that organized labor will organize anybody and everybody.

Jose Cardenas:
But in the past there seemed to be more of an opposition to it in keeping people without the proper papers out of the country to protect their existing base, and now there seems to be a movement toward organizing people who are here illegally.

Michael McGrath:
Well, I think all of us have, whether we fight it or whether we embrace it, all of us at some point or another at the very least recognize increasing globalism. And that increasing globalism is having effect on work. Whether that is workers from other countries coming in here or whether that is work that was traditionally done in America moving to other countries. So that as we see the flow, the ebb and flow of work, be that workers in or work going out of this country, organized labor has taken a very pragmatic position and a very just position, I believe, in the fact what our focus will be is on workers. In the past was there a harder stance? Yes. Would everybody in organized labor right now agree that what we need to do wholeheartedly is go out and organize every immigrant? No. But I have many, dozens of unions that are actively organizing currently. And the education curve on that is this, these -- it is not the migrant worker who is taking your job, it's not the immigrant worker who is driving down your wage. It's the fact that they are not unionized that is driving down your wage. No different than if it was 10,000 college kids, you know, because they close the colleges. We're all now in the construction industry, building homes. There is no difference. Wage, the driving down of wages, is based on lack of organization, not the color of skin.

Jose Cardenas:
Michael McGrath, A.F.L. C.I.O., we're going to leave it at that point. Thank you for joining us on Horizon.

Michael McGrath:
Thank you Jose.

Jose Cardenas:
If you would like a transcript of tonight's show or would like to learn about future topics, please log on to our website at azpbs.org, and click on Horizon. That's tonight's Horizon. Thanks for joining us.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

What's on?

Content Partner:

  About KAET Contact Support Legal Follow Us  
  About Eight
Mission/Impact
History
Site Map
Pressroom
Contact Us
Sign up for e-news
Pledge to Eight
Donate Monthly
Volunteer
Other ways to support
FCC Public Files
Privacy Policy
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Google+
Pinterest
 

Need help accessing? Contact disabilityaccess@asu.edu

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University    Copyright Arizona Board of Regents