February 22, 2006

Is expecting locals to get highly touted Triumph plant jobs "racist"?

Within the last month or so, to counter discussion of the real issue of such slaughterhouse operations ending up with large numbers of their employees being illegal immigrants or imported immigrants from other points in the country, a group has sprung up with the dubious charge of racism.

The following e-mail was sent out to publicize a "Stop the Hate" rally/workshop.

It would be warranted and make sense if anyone was specifically saying that the only foreign workers they were concerned about were Mexicans. But to my knowledge, no one has taken that stance. If they have, please bring it to our attention.

Subject: "Stop the Hate" rally/workshop Mon, Feb. 20


"Stop the Hate" rally/workshop Monday, Feb. 20, 2006 at the Moline
Community Center, 1515 5th Ave, Moline at 4PM.

The event is being organized by Quad City residents, most of whom are
native born American citizens of Mexican descent. They are concerned that
in the public discussion about the proposed Triumph Foods pork processing
plant some people were saying they were opposed to the plant because
Mexicans would be drawn to the area to work at the plant and this would
have a negative effect on the community.

An action plan will be discussed for countering such public commentary.

We are also encouraging peopel to write letters to the editor to speak out
on this issue: opinions@qctimes.com, letters@qconline.com,
letters@rcreader.com.

Letter below written by Connie Barrett - for more info on Rally or to help
with this issue, contact Connie at: 309-797-0906 or
casagtomoline@mchsi.com
Letter to the Dispatch Editor

It's past time to speak up about the anti-immigrant rhetoric surrounding
the prospect of a hog plant in East Moline. Our silence implies
agreement. There are some very good arguments not to have a hog plant in
the area. But the offensive remarks made about the Mexican immigrants is
unacceptable. Can you imagine the reaction if people said they didn't
want a factory in the area because it would attract Blacks or Jews?
Excuse me?

Mexican immigrants have always been a vital part of our community. One
hundred years ago they came with other immigrants to build our railroads,
work in our factories and farms, and serve in the military. Today we see
their descendants working as teachers, lawyers, medical professionals,
social workers, bankers and business people; our fine Rock Island States
Attorney, Jeff Terronez, is an example.

The argument that they bring crime and drain social services is untrue.
As an interpreter and family advocate, I occasionally accompany people to
court and I can assure you that the majority of people having to face a
judge are white of European descent. This is also true of social
services. Mexican immigrants have a strong work ethic, and the last thing
they want is a hand out. The majority of Mexican immigrants work hard,
pay their taxes, and raise their families with strong family values.

The argument that the hog plant would hire undocumented workers is untrue
and a ploy to incite fear and anti-immigrant sentiment. All companies in
the United States are subject to lawful hiring practices, and they are
prosecuted and fined if they do not comply.

The argument that the salaries are too low to attract "American" workers
is also bogus. What about all the white Americans that work at the
Walmarts, K-marts, Targets, McDonalds, etc.? I doubt that meat processing
plants discriminate against white Americans. Where are the Unions? The
salaries may be low, but don't blame the immigrants. We seem to forget
that our country has a long history of Union activism and standing up for
workers rights.

Please don't misunderstand, I am personally not in favor of having a hog
plant in our area and I certainly don't think we should be subsidizing it.
There are serious environmental and esthetic concerns for not putting a
hog plant in that specific location. But we can't let ourselves be lead
by xenophobic arguments. If no one responds to the anti-immigrant racists
and fear-mongers, then we start to think that is acceptable. The
Quad-Cities that I know and grew up in, is a welcoming, diverse, and
caring community, and as a community, we have an obligation to stand up
and answer this type of hateful rhetoric because our implicit agreement
gives it acceptance and allows it to grow until it is too late..

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left
to speak for me.

Connie Barrett

1831 - 13th Street

Moline, IL 61265
Ms. Barrett seems well meaning, if a bit prone to hyperbole. Her indignation might even be appropriate if there were some organized effort to specifically single out only Mexican residents.

But while someone may have mentioned the word Mexicans when discussing the matter of illegal employees at the Triumph plant, I'm not sure that there's some massive anti-Mexican wave going on anywhere. I've never heard anyone specifically single out Mexicans. In that respect the response is a bit misguided.

I'm sure there indeed are instances of racism around, both subtle and not so subtle, which needs exposure and correction. And in order to combat it, people need to be vigilant and try to stop it before it starts. If it serves to put actual racists on notice that it will be opposed and not tolerated, then that's all good.

Racism may certainly may be a factor in why a few oppose the plant, and some may indeed be against foreign born workers of any type due to their racist beliefs. Of course that should be exposed and dealt with. If someone is suggesting that only one ethic group is more prone to crime and trouble, then that should be condemned as well.

But short of any evidence of any actual racism, some go far beyond that and demean the motives of anyone who raise the issue of the hiring of illegals at Triumph by assuming they are doing so out of racist motives. To do so is simply unfair, untrue, and is in itself as bad as the racism they're supposedly out to combat.

It distorts the issue, stiffles free debate of a real issue, and does as much damage to those who are smeared with the blanket charge of racism as actual racism does to it's victims.

Charging anyone who so much as mentions illegal aliens with racism is unfair and should be refuted strongly and firmly.

It's also been alleged that one of the leaders of this well coordinated effort to cry racism, Stella Scheneckloth, has connections with the head of the Riverstone Group. Bob Imler is the top executive of that corporation which is one of the largest landowners in the area, and happens to own the land on which the Triumph plant is to be built.

There is suspicion that those who stand to profit the most from this deal are very much involved in trying to fan the flames here, and in essence, create a race issue where none actually exists.

Why?

Obviously to mount a campaign to vilify and smear the most effective opponents to the plant as "racist" and to inflame what they are aware is a large latino population in the area and to soften up the public to the issue of illegal immigrant labor.

They can thus distort the issue, warping opponents concern about imported or illegal labor to somehow suggesting that these opponents are against anyone of Mexican or latino descent even working there, which of course, is a truly digusting lie.

They know that people have real, valid concerns about the plant attracting large numbers of illegal imigrants, no matter what their ethnicity, and in an effort to short circuit that valid concern, they're now hiring people to loudly allege racism every time someone so much as mentions the issue.

The whole thing is repugnant and any executive or leader who is encouraging this or financing it should be exposed, and Ms. Schneckloth should spend her valuable time finding instances where there is actual racism and discrimination to fight, and less time being a willing tool of those who hope to be able to hire illegal and imported labor at the plant.

It is not "racist" to be concerned about, support, and to voice that support for ensuring that a large proposed industrial plant, one who's biggest selling point to the community is the jobs it will provide, give those jobs to residents of the area and not farm them out to imported or illegal aliens, no matter what their particular ethnic group.

The concerns of those who wish to ensure that jobs go to local residents are not based on racism, but rather the decades of prior experience with a nearly identical plant. To smear them as racist is both facile and disingenuous.

Do those who are so quick to cry racism feel that any concern over the hiring of illegal or imported labor is racist? If not, what evidence do they have of this alleged racism?

Racism is a very serious thing to charge someone with. It by definition accuses someone of feeling a certain way in their hearts and minds which society rightly condemns, and accuses them of hatred or ill will against a massive class of people. Unless you're certain, to hurl this charge around is a very reckless and dangerous thing to do, and I believe these people have done so far too easily. Their motives should be in question.

9 Comments:

At 2/22/2006 12:25 PM, Blogger tiz said...

Excellent post.

It might also be worthy of mentioning that the particular area of EM-Silvis has one of the largest Mexican-American populations in the QCA. Linking racism to the local opposition to this plant, especially towards Latinos, is insulting.

I've always thought that if someone wants to come to the US and work they should be allowed to, period. But as long as there is an illegal element to coming here to work both the immigrant and US citizens lose. The only folks who do benefit from it are human smugglers and the coporations that can drive down worker wages.

Racist is allowing people to live and work here as second-class citizens and ignoring it because of their race.

 
At 2/22/2006 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correct on all points. It isn't racist to want your neighbors to come into this country legally. I am sure that many of Quad-Citians who are of Mexican descent -- who are citizens -- feel the same way.

Shouting "racism" as a way of stifling debate is tired, so tired.

 
At 2/22/2006 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dope, check the old editions of the newspaper about this plant in the very beginning. There is a hispanic alderman in EM that spoke out and said he used to work at IBP now Tyson and he was concerned about illegal aliens and was originally opposed to the plant. Doug Riel is saying the exact same thing that the alderman did. Now I guess it's ok for that alderman to say these things since he is Hispanic or something but I don't think if Doug Riel agrees with what has already been said by one of their own, that makes him racist..... Hmmmm.

 
At 2/22/2006 9:39 PM, Blogger diehard said...

Ridiculous!! Wah!! I'm against the hog plant am I a racist?
Bob Imler gets Stella to stir up a small group of people.
Only neither take the fall.
They put it on Connie Barret, who is a really decent person to do their dirty work!

 
At 2/22/2006 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is. Have you heard the terms that African Americans call each other. Listen to a rap song sometime. You try and say these names to African American and see if it is a different story. You need to be more understanding to the different cultures that we live with so that we can all come together and become one nation. There is hope. Look in the mirror hopefuly you like what you see.

 
At 2/23/2006 6:42 AM, Blogger diehard said...

HUH?!

 
At 2/23/2006 6:48 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

DH, I think what our friend is referring to, no matter how vaguely, is the practice of African Americans using the "N-word" to describe each other, when it's almost certain to get you beaten into a grease spot if a white person uses the same word.

Somehow or other, they feel that this is an example of understanding other cultures. I'd just call it common sense and the instinct for self preservation.

Frankly, anyone rock stupid enough to call a black person the "N-word" probably needs to be removed from the gene pool anyway.

 
At 2/23/2006 7:55 AM, Blogger highxlr8r said...

Dope,

I am not attributing this to anyone on this site, but there are some who use the word "illegals" as a code word for Mexicans and/or other Central American populations, and when used in this way really does include an element of racism.

I agree that we should be concerned about illegal immigration, and should strive to have a system which allows anyone who needs jobs, whether from the Untied States or elsewhere, to legally get a job.

However, rather than oppose the plant because it will bring "illegals" why not support the plant and then lobby and protest to ensure that only legal workers will be employed.

I understand that you Dope have more reasons than this for not supporting the plant, but if an opponent's only argument against it is the fact that they think illegals will be shipped in to work there, there is something suspect about that approach.

On a broader note, this is an issue which has the potential to seriously divide the Democratic party. Many good labor supporters have been split by their perspectives on illegal immigration. This has to be guarded against. We can not afford to let that happen, especially in the coming years as the Republican Party unravels itself.

As Democrats, I believe we have to support an immigration program that is generous, and make sure that every worker brought in is union. We cannot afford to be blinded by xenophobia.

 
At 3/02/2006 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea! actually be for something and the work to keep Illegals out. Novel idea. Be for something. Wow.

 

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