Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Times evolve, but in some ways remain remarkably similar to the past

I couldn’t help but be amused by a story the Chicago Sun-Times published recently – one about restaurant help being taken advantage of because of their position on society’s fringes due to their ethnic status.
An ethnic mixture that's truly all-American

In this case, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism worked with the newspaper to prepare a lengthy story about all those workers doing the labor in Chinese restaurants and buffets located across the Midwestern U.S.

IT SEEMS LIKE an old tale – Chinese immigrants being used and abused as cheap labor who can’t really complain about their treatment. If they don’t like it, they can go back to China.

Except these weren’t Chinese immigrants. For it seems the kitchen help consists largely of Mexican immigrants. These are people who got these jobs though employment agencies that tend to cater to providing labor for Chinese-oriented businesses, including restaurants.

And in many cases, the news organizations reported, the decision to seek out Latino-oriented workers was a conscious one by the Chinese businesses.

One could try to put the spin on things by saying these businesses know hard workers when they see them, so the conscious decision to seek out Mexicans in need of jobs is a fully-legitimate one.

ALTHOUGH LET’S BE honest. What it really amounts to is the reason why many businesses in our society seek out individuals of ethnic origins to do the physical labor that needs to be done in order for a business to operate.

Not all jobs involve sitting around on one’s duff and tapping out a few keys on a computer of sorts.

They really do want people who might be trying to draw as little attention to themselves as possible while managing to earn an income in order to survive.
Past attitudes towards Mexicans not all that different … 
Finding those people whose immigration status makes many question their presence means you can have a work force inclined not to complain – even if one is treating those workers with less than proper respect as people and as a labor force.

BUT PERHAPS THIS is merely evidence of our society evolving – albeit in a manner that is rather embarrassing to all of us.

For there was a time when it would have been Chinese workers being brought over to this country to do the work that no one else wanted to do, and treating them in a demeaning manner.

Now, we get the image of Chinese ethnics seeking out Mexicans to do the work of maintaining those restaurants that can be quite popular with the bulk of our society. What comes next? Mexican business owners finding hard-working African Muslims in need of work and willing to put up with nonsense when it comes to human rights?

It’s embarrassing to see that on one level, our society isn’t evolving in the least. The idea that some people think exploitation of one’s labor force is the only way to manage to make a profitable business entity truly is appalling.

PARTICULARLY SINCE THE news organizations reported the degree to which these businesses are providing inadequate housing for their labor (which is part of the deal by which they get these workers to take jobs with them). And also that while the restaurants and other businesses pay these employment agencies a fee for finding the workers, the laborers then have money taken from their wages to reimburse the business for that fee.
… from those toward Chinese

Almost as though one has to “pay” for the “right” to hold a crummy job that manages to take advantage of their situation in life – which is to be in need of a job so badly that one thinks someone else is “entitled” to take advantage of them.

As one of Mexican ethnic origins myself, I’d like to think we’re somehow above this and will never be in a status where we choose to exploit other individuals in such a manner. Although in this Age of Trump, I wonder if there are those who would say that such status is evidence that we’re (as “The Jeffersons” of TV fame on told us) “Movin’ on Up.”

Although as we Chicagoans all know, there’s no “East Side” of the city to move up to – unless you count the 10th Ward neighborhood where many of us already live.


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