When will enough be enough, huh?
When will taking every. possible. harmful. action to attack workers, wages and the welfare of the average American no longer be en vogue?
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When will being so certain of the benefits of lower standards, less oversight, and a next-to-nothing future start getting lawmakers in trouble?
In Arkansas, Dan Douglas wants to repeal the prevailing wage. He says it’s “archaic” and that “taxpayers” bear the brunt of the extra “cost” of paying workers a decent wage.
Dan Douglas represents Bentonville, Arkansas, population 37,000. This also happens to be the city where Wal-Mart, bastion of underpaid American slave-resembling labor, is headquartered. Dan Douglas, sleeping on Wal-Mart’s doorstep, says wages should be lower. This is like OctoMom saying “I need more kids.” It’s gross. It’s living in the hot-bed of wage-crushing policy and asking for more wage-crushing policy.
Arkansas is already a “Right-to-Work” stronghold. According to a new chart released by LiUNA, Arkansas ranks 41st in the nation in wages for their members. The bottom 10. Or, perhaps in Dan Douglas’ eyes, the “Top 10.” One can only imagine what the non-union wages are like.
But, no, we get it. We know Dan Douglas and the lot like him understand what will happen without the prevailing wage in places like Bentonville. An already undocumented worker-filled workforce (half of Latinos in Arkansas were undocumented in 2006) will get more undocumented worker-filled. No protections. No voice. No security. Just pure, unadulterated exploitation.
Still, Douglas and his clan will lament immigration laws, whip up frenzy about the security of borders and then…take action to make undocumented workers the only hireable workers at the wages being offered. The prevailing wage is in place to ensure skilled workers get hired, that public works projects get done properly by people who can reap the benefits not just of the service the public works provide but of having built the damn thing. Building something in your community means spending your hard-earned money in that community.
As The Economist put it in 2007, undocumented workers in Arkansas are “illegal, but useful”:
Of Arkansas’s immigrants, 60% (the national average is 54%) are aged between 20 and 45. Their youth suggests that, even more than elsewhere, they may replace retiring baby-boomers in the workforce. Lack of higher education keeps them out of the better-paying jobs, but a report by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation estimates that without immigrant labour, annual revenue from Arkansas’s manufacturing industry would probably be $1.4 billion lower.
A boost to the economy!? Sure! When contractors hoard profits hand over foot it can certainly look like a boost. Throw in a $20 billion budget surplus from unclaimable undocumented worker entitlements and BANG! you’ve got yourself a thriving, wage-free state:
Immigrants are less likely than natives to use public services according to the Urban Institute. Undocumented immigrants who are working pay into social security while they are unable to access those benefits. Undocumented immigrants also pay federal and state income tax, local and state taxes. According to one study, on the federal level immigrants tax payments total more than $20 to $30 billion more than they use in benefits.
In Arkansas, this resulted in a $20 million dollar budget surplus which has helped to strengthen the state’s reserve fund. In addition, in most states, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for most welfare benefits including food stamps, transitional living assistance, and public housing. In Arkansas undocumented immigrants are ineligible for nearly all welfare benefits and cannot receive medical care generally unless it is the case of a bona fide emergency.
In fact, in many instances, immigrants would have access to better services in their home country. For example, many Central American countries provide completely free medical services including hospital stays to anyone regardless of income, nationality, or status.
So congratulations, Dan Douglas. Keep your head low and your wages lower and you could be the guy who turns Arkansas into New Guatemala, where most workers don’t receive the minimum wage and those that do make $250 a month!
Dan Douglas’ misguided plan will first be heard tomorrow.