StoneToss: Episode 68

they took 'er jerbs

Comic Name: Nueve-to-Cinco
Description: Pro-borders is pro-labor
Mouseover: they took ‘er jerbs
Image Name: immigration-taking-jobs-comic.png
Originally Published: 9/3/2019

What The Comic Is: A gay man leads a second man down a hallway. As they pass by a brown man mopping the floors, the gay man remarks “See? Immigrants just want to work”. In the next panel it is shown that the man he is leading down the hall is holding a résumé.

What StoneToss Actually Thinks: Immigration destroys American jobs.

Why It’s Fucking Stupid: Immigrants working in the USA is a touchy subject. While many people will write off immigrant labor as “doing the jobs no one else wants to do”, this is usually not the truth. It’s true that if someone comes to the USA and takes a job, then that job is taken. Someone else can’t work the position, it is already filled. This isn’t wrong, and it’s sometimes how things work. I, the author of this blog and all of its posts, grew up and spent a good part of my life in northeastern Iowa. Living in a very rural part of an already very rural state, I saw my share of Mexicans (plenty of them undocumented) and how they worked. I spent a couple of summers doing field labor (de-tasseling corn was an especially miserable one). However, one year I stopped doing it. Why? Because the lady I would find regular employment from stopped her business. Why? Because she got outcompeted by the Mexican workers.

Now keep in mind, I was just a random high school kid who did this as a summer job for peanut money. The Mexican immigrants were men and women who were being abused by a predatory labor system while trying to make basic ends meet for their families, so there’s no bad blood betwixt I and the field workers who sucked up my job (and we’ll actually get back to all this soon). However, it isn’t just random low-pay field work that immigrants take. I lived very close to the town of Postville, Iowa. In 2008 the meat processing plant Agriprocessors was the ground zero of the, at the time, largest ICE raid in US history. 400 undocumented people were seized and deported/had their RuneScape accounts permbanned. Agriprocessors went belly-up immediately after this, in large part because the undocumented people accounted for basically their entire employee force. One of the meat facility’s primary leaders, a son of the founder of the facility, Sholom Rubashkin, was arrested and sentenced to 27 years in prison.

The employment of undocumented people was only part of the issue. The facility faced numerous issues ranging from the treatment of the animals to the lack of food safety protocols. At any rate, the plant was shut down for around a year until it was bought by someone else and reopened as Agri Star, which it operates as to this day. Agri Star turned the town of Postville around, like a huge 180. My own brother and several of our friends worked there for years. It went from a seedy, dirty and illicit factory operation into something that brought very good employment to hundreds of people in the local area. It’s pretty hard to take arguments of “They only do jobs no one else does!” seriously when I’ve seen firsthand what this looks like. These days Agri Star employs many Somalian immigrants who have moved to that part of the country, helping a lot of them establish life in the USA.

But I drone on. I swear this all has a point, so just bear with me for a bit. We’re going to shit all over StoneToss, don’t worry. Trust me. Instead of touting that undocumented workers “only do work no one else wants to do”, we need to frame it as “they only do work that no one else can realistically do“. You are not helping undocumented workers by likening them to slave labor who fulfil jobs in only the most laborious or miserable of fields. Remember when I said I did field work in my younger years? Yeah, guess who was doing 99% of that work? The answer is: Highschool kids and undocumented Mexicans. In my time working in the fields, I saw a single adult man working along with us, and he was a teacher from our local school who did it because he was a fitness freak who always had to be doing something. Does anyone support their family with this field work? No. Why? Because it’s low pay, has no benefits, is seasonal and is treated as something for kids and brown people who don’t English so good.

So here’s a question: Why isn’t field work something you could raise a family on? Here’s the answer: because it’s something that only kids and undocumented labor does. Because the companies behind these jobs, corrupt megacorps like Monsanto (who I was basically sub-contracted to), keep it that way. Can you imagine if weeding bean fields or ripping dicks off of corn (which is exactly what de-tasseling is, by the way) paid competitive wages, offered healthcare and unemployment benefits? Could you imagine if these multi-billion dollar companies treated the work like a “real” job, and paid their employees respectively? Needless to say, it would no longer be a “job no one wants to do”. There’s no such thing as a job “no one wants to do” (well, okay, most jobs are jobs that no one necessarily wants to do, but there’s no such thing as a job that no one would do if it paid accordingly). So in reality, saying “they do jobs no one else wants to do” is just enabling shitty companies like Monsanto to continue more or less taking advantage of people, as you can bet that the undocumented workers who took my shitty field job were, in some way, lining Monsanto’s pockets the same way I had been.

Alright so let’s go back to Agriprocessors. After the ICE raid and its total capitulation as a company, it was purchased and reopened. As I’ve already said, its rebirth as Agri Star under new ownership was a bomb blast that revitalized the town of Postville and surrounding area. It was so easy to be employed, and for a time it was even slightly racist in that regard (the popular saying was “if you’re white and piss clean, Agri Star will always hire you). So the 400 undocumented workers who were employed at the original company were certainly, and very visibly, impacting lives of other people around them. And unfortunately, during their time at Agriprocessors, those undocumented workers were being taken advantage of in the same way they’re taken advantage of anywhere else. So it’s really a lose-lose for everyone, except the companies that are rolling huge profit.

The problem with undocumented, or even documented immigrants (this shitty comic doesn’t even imply the brown man is an illegal immigrant, just that de brown pplz terk er jerbs), is not that “they take our jobs”, it’s that employers take wanton advantage of them and remove the necessary element of competitiveness from the job market. If the company can get away with hiring undocumented labor for pennies on the dollar and offer zero benefits or job stability and treat them pretty much like slaves, then how can anyone expect there to be a chance for that job to both 1.) Not be totally shit and 2.) Documented citizens to ever want to work it. If you force employers to make their job fair and compensate correctly, then you no longer have abused immigrants working 13 hour days for 30 dollars. You no longer have a meat processing plant employing 400 undocumented people in deplorable, filthy conditions. You create healthy, self-sustaining and growth-inclined communities where people can naturally compete for jobs.

There can’t always be enough jobs everywhere for everyone. That’s just how things work. Life isn’t that easy to quantify, but the notion of droves of Mexicans crossing the border and stealing all the jobs from honest, hardworking, red blooded, white skinned, non-Muslim, heterosexual, white skinned, cis-gendered, Conservative, white-skinned Americans is ridiculous. It’s nothing more than a vague and hard to prove excuse for general racism. StoneToss is masquerading xenophobia and hatred for brown people as a “legitimate” argument that if we let people immigrate to the USA, they will take jobs from us. In reality, the real issue that actually hurts people (immigrants and existing citizens alike) is the companies that take advantage of this situation, due to the nature of how immigration works in most of the country. This doesn’t turn brown people into a boogeyman, though, so of course StoneToss ignores it.

Oh right and that guy I mentioned before? Sholom Rubashkin? The primary leader of Agriprocessors at the time of the ICE raid, who was sentenced to 27 years in prison? That guy? Yeah, well, in 2017 Donald Trump commuted his sentence and he was released. At this point in time StoneToss was already expressing unhappiness and even disdain for Trump; but that Donald Trump, who was supposed to be a beacon of nationalism and closed borders, commuted the sentence of a man who went to prison for employing hundreds of undocumented workers, is, well. Pretty fucking hilarious. It’s heartwarming, almost, to think that it seems as if hardcore xenophobic conservatives have no legitimate footing in high office, that anyone singing their tune is just a twofaced shill using them for votes so they can get into office and trade financial favors to guys like Sholom. Of course. in reality, we still have to remain vigilant and give no tolerance to bigotry and fascism in government, but we can always muse and appreciate the absolute, abject loss that StoneToss is made out of.

Whew. Almost done now, I promise. Anyways, I want to touch on the comic’s mouse over text. “They terk ‘er jerbs” is a popular phrase originating from South Park. It is meant to make fun of and mock uneducated, twang-slinging bigots who are concerned with immigrants “stealing” jobs. StoneToss uses this quote, unedited in any way, as a way of trying to “reclaim” it. He knows full well that South Park is making fun of people like him, but this is his limpdicked little way of trying to take it and reframe it as a mic drop moment: to StoneToss, South Park was right. They terk er jerbs. They should’ve taken you back to the fifth grade, you fucking dumbass.

Today’s post was a really long one so I’m going to spare you anymore tl;dr. I didn’t plan to turn this into some kind of full length essay, but this is a topic I have experienced in a very up close way, so I normally have a lot to say about it. As always, thanks for reading. I love u.

7 thoughts on “StoneToss: Episode 68

  1. I think you made a really good explanation on how immigrants taking jobs isn’t a fault of immigration itself, however there’s a thing that people seem to forget about immigrants coming into the country. As the population grows, there’s more opportunities for jobs. With more people you have to build better infrastructure for the new people to use, build housing for those people to live in, How they contribute their money into the economy, etc… Basically with more people coming in you have more jobs that are made to accommodate those new people coming in.

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  2. Fantastic explanation of how we shouldn’t demonize immigrants and also should hold accountable the big corporations that consistently abuse any worker they please, documented or not. Thank you.

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  3. I assume he means that his employer either wasn’t hiring immigrants or was only hiring a few. It could definitely happen.

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  4. I don’t know if you meant to phrase it this way, but it looks like you said that the Mexican workers outcompeted your employer. I can understand how businesses can outcompete each other and how workers can outcompete each other, but how can an employee outcompete an employer?

    I do quite like the thoroughness of today’s post though. Even in Canada one can say how hard Mexicans work doing hard labour, and doing so under not so great conditions.

    All of the farms I’ve volunteered on can say well enough that they don’t make much money from doing so, which is possibly why they generally can’t pay in good wages and benefits. I can’t comment on what monsanto can do, but I imagine it should be better.

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    1. >I don’t know if you meant to phrase it this way, but it looks like you said that the Mexican workers outcompeted your employer. I can understand how businesses can outcompete each other and how workers can outcompete each other, but how can an employee outcompete an employer?

      Do you mean how did the Mexican workers outcompete the Monsanto? Like I mentioned in the article, I’m *sure* that somehow/someway Monsanto was making money from the Mexican workers. I don’t know enough about how the world of illegal employment works, and I assume it has to have a degree of corruption with local authorities in order to work, otherwise the IRS and other departments would be wondering how a farm that produces XX amount of yield is managing to produce so much while claiming it doesn’t pay any workers. On a small scale (I was working with a group of people maybe a dozen and a half large, tops) it makes sense that these undocumented workers could slip through cracks and no one notices. On a large scale, like with the Agriprocessors meat plant, you’re talking hundreds of them worked for years before the operation was taken down. How they operate so long without “real” employees is something I’m not sure of. Perhaps on some level the government treats it as an “open secret” that undocumented people are out there, working random jobs and being paid pennies under the table, and it’s only once you get too big that they’ll nip you for it.

      >All of the farms I’ve volunteered on can say well enough that they don’t make much money from doing so, which is possibly why they generally can’t pay in good wages and benefits.

      Farming seems like a feast or famine kind of thing to me. Lots of farmers across the country/world are poor and barely make wages, where others are massive industrial complexes making millions. In my part of Iowa, it was mostly the latter. Lots of really big, wealthy farm families (I went to school with a couple of different “farm families” that had a small army of siblings. One of the girls in my grade had 13 other brothers/sisters in the grades above or below us). When you’re talking millions of dollars in revenue and hundreds or thousands of acres of fields, I guess it just pays to start using illegal labor? Especially when a company like Monsanto is involved, who are basically an IRL version of an evil cartoon bad guy company.

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    2. I read it as meaning his direct employer was some kind of labour subcontractor who couldn’t compete with cheaper labourers being hired either directly or through a different subcontractor.

      I don’t know much about farming but it would make sense if there was a system of labour pools that farmers could hire for days or weeks at a time when they needed to harvest.

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      1. That’s about what I meant, yes. I was working for a lady who was working for Monsanto, so she was basically subcontracting me out to do the work for Monsanto. I guess I overcomplicated it a little bit, for all intent and purpose I was doing shitty field work that eventually got taken by Mexican workers. Who exactly hired them, I don’t know. Probably the farmers themselves, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Monsanto also had a hand in it to some degree, just given how Monsanto is such a corrupt company.

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