Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We need serious Immigration reform.

Sun Valley Floral Farms let go of 283 undocumented workers today after receiving a letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week indicating that the employees — from flower pickers to management-level staff — were not eligible for employment in the United States.

I had just led around 700 workers at Dart Container in Corona California through the National Labor Relations Board NLRB process of becoming a union bargaining committee in 2002. Mostly Latino workers. It was their right through the National Labor Relations Act to organize without the fear of reprisal regardless of their immigration status. They were successful in their campaign and I was blessed to lead the largest manufacturing union victory in the nation in a decade.

Word got around in the Latino community and I was contacted about organizing an manufacturing outfit of 500 workers in Moreno Valley called Thor Industries that made recreational vehicles. I and Corona Latino workers from Dart had meetings with workers to lead them through the process of becoming union. When we were in the process of having union authorization cards signed, the Thor company decided to use the immigration hammer. They told all workers to bring in their "green" cards on a Monday to prove their US residence. Hundreds of workers were now out of a job, and their only recourse was to have me lead them through the process of protection through the NLRB. How many of those workers out of 500 do you think stepped forward to testify against Thor? You guessed right, 0.

The process is uneven and unfair.

Sun Valley President and CEO Lane DeVries met with his entire staff this afternoon and shared the “shocking” news with them. In a phone conversation today, DeVries described the meeting as “heart-warming and frustrating.”

As for the 283 workers who are now jobless, he said, “It really stinks. It’s a raw deal. It’s very sad for everyone. These people bought houses, bought cars, spent money at the Bayshore Mall. This is not good for this community.”

And it’s bad news for Sun Valley too. “The heart and the soul of our team is getting ripped out,” he said. “The heart and soul of our company is no longer with us.

Some of the workers who were let go today had been with Sun Valley for 17 years, DeVries said.

Mario Meza, general manager of Spanish-language radio station KNCR in Fortuna, told the Journal today that he has received a steady stream of calls from anonymous community members about the layoffs since last Friday .

I know there are many in the community who feel these workers are getting what they deserve. But when you are talking about workers with nearly 20 years of service and above the board citizens contributing taxes in the form of Social Security and Federal and State Taxes for nearly 20 years. Shouldn't we have an amnesty program in place for those? Just a bad situation.


Anon.R.mous said...

Almost 20 years of service and they still haven't become a legal alien or resident, and you want me to feel sorry for them? Sorry, but no. It's not like you should be getting a bonus the longer you break the law and then if you break the for for ten years, you win the grand prize of citizenship.

Why is it not like drug dealers, where their property is seized because they were involved in a illegal act? Ask yourself that.

Andrew Bird said...

The right-wing xenophobic attitude toward immigrants is another symptom of what ails this nation under George W. Bush.

Anon.R.mous said...

And you call yourself a reporter Andrew Bird, you should be ashamed of yourself.

I mean, George W. Bush allowed Mexican Trucks to cross the border and work in the USA. I think that you have some very warped issues that you need to work out about blaming the evil "right-wing" and "George W. Bush" for every problem. Why don't you man up for once and take some blame yourself?

But yes, we do need serious immigration reform, we need to seize all assets from illegal employees and deport them.

Rose said...

I agree with Anon.R. Andrew should be ashamed of himself.

This is tragic, but employers have had to verify their employees' citizenship since the early 90s. That applies to all of us. So, did Sun Valley ignore this law? Or were they presented with falsified documents? How many workers are employed there? Is this half? Or three quarters? What happens to the families now? How are the kids in school holding up? Lots of questions, Andrew.

Wasn't it BUSH, your evil spectre, Andrew, who proposed a guest worker program that might have addressed this problem?

But like the pot/growhouse issue, you have laws. Do you ignore those who break those laws because you don't like the law? But you bust other people who break laws you do like? Then your laws mean nothing and no one should have to obey any of them.

The way we are going you are set to be punishing the innocent, law abiding people who do nothing but drive without seatbelts on or windshield wipers on, or talking on their cellphone, because those otherwise law abiding people are compliant, and you can do something about them, but you can't do anything about the real lawbreakers so you leave them alone.

Andrew Bird said...

Thank you. When I get the two most notorius right-wingers in the local blogosphere on my case, I know I've done some good.

Fred said...

Sorry, Andrew, but Bush has come under a lot of fire for his pro- immigration stances.

Interesting thing in this situation, though, is to prove or disprove some long held beliefs, or claims:

It's been said that most Americans won't do the kind of work that a lot of the illegals do. Now is the time to see if that's true. Will Sun Valley Bulb Farms be able to replace all of their lost workforce with legal workers, or not?

If I were a betting man, I'd say not, although I have no what the critical mass for workers is there to keep the place up and running.

Andrew Bird said...

Even better. Add to the two right wingers, the Paulist xenophobe. Life is good.

The Boy Most Likely to ... said...

Look, all philosophies aside, the issues here are quite troubling.

Why were these workers hesitant to seek ways to get legal status of some sort? Especially after 17 years for some. If they took the risk, then yes, these workers knew the day would come when the feds would raid, or in this case, send a letter. Sad to say...maybe these workers did not want to pay the "dues" that we pay (taxes, etc.)

They will move on to where the work is. They will move to where the feds are not sniffing around. I want to say that these people, my people, were victims of a terrible mechanism, but I have known people who would not try to get "legal" for whatever personal benefits they saw.

It is so simple: If you want to stop illegal immigration, then the US law dogs need to crack down on companies that hire illegals. I mean, really crack down on them.

Read the book The Devil's Highway, and ask yourself why people would risk such a terrible fate to cross a desert to work for wages that most of us already here would not touch.

Anon.R.mous said...

Andrew Bird said...

Thank you. When I get the two most notorius right-wingers in the local blogosphere on my case, I know I've done some good.

This can't be Andrew Bird, but someone posing at him. First off, the spelling errors, and second off, calling me a right-winger.

Back to the real story at hand, how much did the illegals cost Sun Valley anyway? I heard from a very good source that they will cost them over $25,000 in drug testing alone to get the staff back up to levels they where before, and that doesn't include lost production, hiring costs, and what have you.

I'm glad that the government is putting pressure on illegals, and the people that hire them.

samoasoftball said...

Boy: Or better yet, read the Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle to understand how to be humanistic about the problem. Or Rain of Gold is another good one.

BTW-These people did pay taxes.

Babushka said...

I'm with you, Andrew.

Anonymous said...

Babushka, your "with" Andrew on this in what way exactly?

Rose and AnonR, as well as rightsaidFred basically refuted Andy's Bush baiting with facts.

Saying that he's basically proven a point by virtue of the fact that those two responded actually proves nothing.

Rose said...

Andrew is blinded by his hatred.

So, Andrew, how many times would you offer amnesty? Every decade? Once a year? Every month?

Why bother to have any rules then?

And what do YOU say to the people who are in line waiting to come in legally? Sucks to be you? What do you say to those who completed the process legally? You're stupid?

And Richard - you should know better, too. Employers know the law. The employees also know the law. Paying taxes doesn't erase the illegality. Not at all. Whose social security number were they using?

Are you advocating that they all just ignore the law?

I guess you are.

This is tragic, and it is very sad for all of the extended family members who are affected, but if someone has been there 17 years then they must have been here the last time amnesty was offered. They've had plenty of time to go through the legalization process.

Irresponsibility may now destroy a very successful and well-liked company. Means nothing to you, I guess. I expect that from Andrew. But not you.

Anonymous said...

I'm somewhere in the middle on this, and I think most people are.

I too feel bad for the workers. It's clear that we do need real immigration reform.

But I don't feel bad for Sun Valley! They deserve this.

If they'd pay more, they'd get more legal workers.

Rose said...

Everybody's in the middle on this one. Those were some good and decent people who lost their jobs. And Sun Valley has an excellent reputation, Lane DeVries is a good guy.

Families are now wondering what will happen to them.

It's sad.

There's more in today's paper - Monday's firings were prompted by a hand-delivered letter from ICE informing Sun Valley that more than half of its workforce had invalid identification numbers and were therefore ineligible to work in the United States. Sun Valley had submitted all employees' I-9 documents at ICE's request in November, but heard nothing further until the letter's arrival....

Sun Valley Group CEO Lane DeVries said Sun Valley followed the hiring standards provided to them by immigration services, which required two forms of identification, including a social security card, a driver's license or an alien registration card.

That tells you something.

”There's this mistaken impression that when illegal workers take jobs it's a victimless crime,” Kice said. “That's not true. People (who have had their identities stolen) have been denied medical benefits and home loans. Some have been falsely arrested. Real people have had very serious consequences.”
There is no indication thus far that DeVries or anyone else remaining at Sun Valley knowingly committed a crime, and it is possible that no further legal action will be taken. Kice said she could not comment on why the workers were not arrested or deported. She did say that employers in similar cases are often found to be innocent of any crime.

That tells you something.

A man called the Times-Standard Wednesday morning claiming responsibility for the tip that led to the Sun Valley I-9 audit.

”I drove by (Sun Valley Floral Farms) one day and saw it was all Mexicans working there,” said the man, who refused to identify himself. “So I called the immigration people down in San Francisco.”

That tells you something else again.

Fred said...

"That's not true. People (who have had their identities stolen) have been denied medical benefits and home loans.".

Years ago, when we first went to the welfare office to apply for MediCal, we had to go through a few checks. When they ran my social security number, it came back to two people: Me and some mexican guy.

The welfare folks didn't seem all that concerned. They just told me I might want to look into that further. I would of thought there might be some requirement on their end to report the duplicate issuance. I guess not.

And, for what it's worth, although I'm not an open borders libertarian, I'm not an immigrant basher, either. I think there should be some kind of guest worker program for people like the ones working at Sun Valley, especially the ones that stuck with the job for so many years.

The Boy Most Likely to ... said...

If they'd pay more, they'd get more legal workers.

Before they would pay more, they would try to move their farms to Mexico.

Let's be real about this! A former Texas Governor is our President. You think he succeeded in Texas without help from Cronies who hired an illegal immigrant or two? There is no incentive to make hiring the undocumented worker too big of a risk. Until then, Jim Garvey and his gang will be have plenty of ammunition from which to draw upon.

I am no business person, but I get the feeling that if you can get away with paying low wages to people who are willing to work for them, then why not do it?

Once this dies down, and the Feds go sniffing elsewhere, then the workers will return.

So what are the locals going to do? Cruise by Sun Valley Farms everyday to see if it is "all Mexicans" working there?

I guess I better stop riding my bike through the bottoms every morning. I would hate to be the person responsible for the next call to San Francisco.


Fred said...

I wrote, "I think there should be some kind of guest worker program for people like the ones working at Sun Valley, especially the ones that stuck with the job for so many years.".

To clarify: I'm not sure just what the answer is to this. I'm not sure I believe in blanket amnesty. It's too bad some of these folks didn't try to get their paperwork squared away during the 17 or more years they've lived and worked here.

Anonymous said...

Before they would pay more, they would try to move their farms to Mexico.

Which is why the government should take punitive measures against companies that do that. And we should cancel all these awful trade deals too.

If we really want to address these problems, that would be a good start.

theo therme said...

the US government couldnt penalize Sun Valley for opening plants in Mexico. that is absurd. Sun Valley is based in the Netherlands.

samoasoftball said...

Rose: Please don't put words in other people mouths. I do not condone what was or is being done illegally. I am just bringing forth debate.

But I do feel our corporate slanted government has left loopholes for these kinds of practices to take place. Check out Kern county and the farm workers or even just in Sonoma county. Stoop labor in this state has created a supply and demand need for illegal immigrants.

That being said, the process of becoming "legal" is more complex than you are giving it credit.

As far as Sun Valley is concerned, they will survive, Rose. Lane and his wife live two houses down from us, and I don't see a moving van.

Fred said...

Do you think Sun Valley will be able to replace all the lost workers? I'm thinking they won't.

Anonymous said...

Well Fred, looks like an opportunity is opening up for you at Sun Valley to get off welfare and stand on your own two feet. Will you take the opportunity? Or will you continue earning just under kick out level for Medi-Cal?

Anon.R.mous said...

Fred said...

Do you think Sun Valley will be able to replace all the lost workers? I'm thinking they won't.

2:42 PM

I dunno Fred, you think there are 283 people looking for work here?

Anonymous said...

I'm applying!

Anonymous said...

The article in the newspaper said Sun Valley is now checking the I-9's and they instantly know if the person is legal to hire. Why didn't they do that in the past year before ICE got this far and they had to fire a lot of their employes?

There are probably people that got fired that are legal as in L.A. there were the same type of raids on clothing manufacturers and I knew someone that was targeted as an illegal and he eventually was able to clear up his status as he was in the country legally.

Humboldtian said...

Mexico is finally getting revenge for the U.S. taking their land in a war fought over 100 years ago. They are taking back California (and other States) without even firing a shot. We have been invaded and our country hasn't done a damn thing about it. It's time to fight back.

Carson Park Ranger said...

Americans benefit from the cheap labor of undocumented immigrants and as a bonus, they have people to scapegoat.


Anonymous said...

Fred, don't you like gardening?

Anonymous said...

Why should U.S. Citizens be expected to obey the law while Illegal Aliens (who have no right to be here in the first place) are permitted to break the law every day?

Serra said...

People seem to think becoming "legal" if you're of latino decent is like going into an office and signing a few papers and there you go. It's not that easy. I know many people who have been applying and have been in the process for more than 17 years. They are law abiding citizens who work and pay taxes just like you and me. The only difference is that they cannot file taxes and get any of that back every year. They don't get social security, and they cannot recieve welfare, medical or food stamps like one may like you to think. If you are illegal, you cannot recieve these benefits in the state of California.
What happened at Sun Valley was sad to me. Illegal immigration is a problem, but it goes much deeper than Sun Valley or anything locally. Our economy depends on cheap labor. I am doubtful on how that company will survive unless they up their wages to pay above minumum for a ten hour shift. You certainly wouldn't catch me out there doing back breaking labor for that long for that much money, I think many of you agree. People whine and yell about illegal immigration is so evil and blah blah, but they are here because of demand. When our economy needs them, they will come. Their countries are so corrupt and poor, they will risk their lives to come. And many of them just want to come for a few years to support their families, make them enough money to have a house and such in their countries, and go back. Some would love to be legal, but most have no idea how to even go about that. Our government toils back and forth every year with a new plan, but there is no follow through. The bottom line is that these are people, iqual to us, just trying to make a better life for their families. What is sad about the Sun Valley thing was that these were not the "bad seeds". Not the drug traffickers, the gang bangers, these were the hardworking ones with families, just like you and me, and now they are out of a job, and a local company is struggling. Too bad I suppose.

Anonymous said...

People come here in violation of our laws and then angrily march and demand every good thing that American citizens have.

You say they are just like us, trying to support their families.

No. They broke the law to come here. They continue to break the law every day they are here. That's just the beginning. If they don't respect our immigration laws, what makes you think they respect any of our laws?

And if they work illegally or even sell some drugs, You would say, That's OK, they are just trying to support their families.

No. It is not OK. Nowhere near OK.

Anonymous said...

Would you like to read the full text of the letter "our" Supervisors wrote? Here is the link to what they label the "ICE letter."

  See how completely they have forgotten who they were elected to represent (the citizens who live in their districts).

They can't even decide whether illegal alien workers complete with local citizens for jobs!

Anonymous said...

It looks as if the link I put in my previous message won't work.

If so, you can copy and paste this:


You should find the ICE letter as a link on the upper right-hand corner of the Board Agenda page.

I think it is well worth the effort to read word for word the letter in which our Supervisors expose themselves as people who so clearly have the interests of people other than ourselves at heart.