Unions and the New Immigration Law


The topic of this panel is the impact of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986′ (“IRCA”) on labor unions and their members. As a generalization, and I think I am going to be corrected in this generalization by the panelists, I think that the organized labor movement has always supported the tightening of the United States’ borders. There is a tendency, I think, by people outside the labor movement to see this as an aspect of liberalism or selfishness on the part of American unions.

But I think it is very hard to maintain a collective bargaining system and, at the same time, to have an unlimited flow of undocumented workers coming into the country. Collective bargaining is an attempt by unions to remove wages, hours, and working conditions from the competition of the marketplace. As such, it is always subject to the checks of the marketplace. When those checks are influenced by the unlimited flow of undocumented workers, in some sense, unfair competition exists.

Suggested Reading

Michael M. Oswalt∞ Organizing is risky. Some workers join in and get fired, others face intimidation and drop out, while most—sensing the tension between legal rights and remedial realities—simply opt out. And more and more, the campaigns—and the campaigners—are getting