|By Bob Weaver OPINION AND COMMENT|
A couple years ago I responded to an accident at Arnoldsburg where a worker was
seriously injured on a four-wheeler in a remote area behind the local school. The
Mexican worker was life-flighted by chopper to Charleston.
The worker was part of a crew doing research for deep well drilling. Three
company trucks from a mid-west firm had about a ten workers on board, all
Mexican. Trying to find the name of the injured, I discovered one man could speak
English. I jokingly asked "How many of you have green cards?" The man cackled
All of these men, God bless'em, were doing what most people do, trying to make a
living. They should not be faulted for that.
Frankly, my reaction to their presence in Sunny Cal with its long-time
unemployment, was to wonder why workers from Calhoun, West Virginia or even
the USA could not have been hired for the jobs. The answer is obvious.
The Republican Party in California, during the recent re-call of the governor, railed
against immigrants draining the social program money pool in California.
They ignored the Great Fact. Corporation's and large businesses love the cheap
labor. They love the cheapness so much, they're hiring aliens, legal or not,
everywhere they can, and when they're not doing that, they're moving millions of
jobs out of America for cheap foreign labor.
Washington has given it a name - "free trade," and we're told it is good for America.
Now you have high profile Wal-Mart in the news, the world's largest retailer and
West Virginia's biggest employer. Hundreds, more likely thousands, of illegal
immigrants are cleaning Wal-Mart stores. Four were arrested in a Parkersburg store
No problem here? It's Wal-Mart! They're not "real" Wal-Mart employees, according to
company officials. They're contracted, which means the company is not
responsible for legal problems, worker's compensation, unemployment, health care,
withholding taxes, and what have you.
Recently, a Parkersburg restaurant owner was caught with some illegal aliens, and he got the book thrown at him, but he's not Wal-Mart.
Consider the Kroger Company, who has always tried to give their employees a fair
shake, is now on strike. Kroger workers are concerned about losing basic benefits.
The Kroger problem is their competitor - Wal-Mart, a company that delivers low
prices but pays low wages, mostly with little or no benefits. (SEE ***) Maybe Kroger needs to
get with the plan and hire illegal aliens.
Also in the news this week - Weirton Steel, once the largest employer in West
A federal bankruptcy judge has signed off on a proposed separation arrangement
between Weirton Steel and a number of salaried employees. The company wants
to eliminate 950 jobs at its Hancock County mill as part of the effort to emerge
America's steel industry has fallen victim to the mis-guided doings of unions.
Remember those union jobs that allowed thousands of steel plant workers in West
Virginia and Pennsylvania to raise their families and maintain their "family values"
by allowing their wives to raise their children.
The inflated union wages have created a problem so severe, future steel will
mostly be made in foreign countries, a throw the baby out with the bath water
Thousands of Weirton Steel employees will be losing most of their promised
pensions, and most likely their health care benefits. The problem is not exclusive to
While living in the northern panhandle of West Virginia for several years, it was
reported one steel company after another spent the pension funds on
"investments," with the workers left behind.
Fifty-year old John Bodonski of Wellsburg worked 30 years at Weirton Steel and
now faces a cut in his $1200 a month retirement check. Bodonski has been retired
for three years. A company employee said "It's easier to die than to live in this
The federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation said Tuesday it was seizing
control of Weirton Steel's pension program. Where were they when the steel
companies were "investing" (spending) and "managing" the retirement money?
Bodonski believes top company officials knew years ago the pension plan would
eventually have problems. He says the workers should have been told so they
could have made other arrangements.
Bodonski says the pension plan was negotiated between the union and company
and many thought it was a sure thing.
The Wellsburg resident said "It's not fair to get up every day and think about this.
You feel like you let your family down and everything I did was for nothing."
Union president Mark Glyptis said "It's very difficult to sit in the same room with
people who have gotten significant bonuses," during the bankruptcy. "I'm talking
about the seven people who believe they deserve millions of dollars just to stay
here. It's a despicable act that has happened."
Glyptis made it clear that the decision to award giant retention bonuses for top
company executives is hindering the negotiation process.
If you're concluding the assault is only on blue collar workers. Think again. Contracts with foreign high-tech professionals to provide administrative computer services is quickly eliminating those high paying, highly-skilled tech jobs around the USA. So much for Silicon Valley.
Before it's too late for steel's survival in America, maybe the company needs to
contract illegal alien workers, like Wal-Mart. Then the illegal alien steel workers
could run over to Wal-Mart and spend their $5.15, provided they don't get sick and
need health coverage along the way.
Better yet, West Virginia should declare the state a foreign country, and the
unemployed could get some low-paying jobs, with or without green cards. Wal-Mart
has a worry-free plan. Lets use it.
*** FEEDBACK FROM HUR HERALD READER: A former WalMart employee, hourly and management, partially disputed the statement "Wal-Mart, a company
that delivers low prices but pays low wages, mostly with
little or no benefits." is not excactly accurate.
"While the wages are low,
it is NOT true that WalMart provides little or no
benefits. They do offer benefits to their employees BOTH
full and part time. Although part timers must be employed
for a specified length of time before they are eligible
for benefits. In the end all employees earn paid vacation
and are eligible for insurance coverage."
"The low wages part, however, I could agree with, they
usually offer entry level employees anywhere between
75 cents and 1.00 over minimum wage, not close to Kroger's wages.I worked for WalMart for seven years, two as
management and five as an hourly associate."
When I was
promoted to salary management in 1998 I was making almost
$10 an hour, after 5 years. Their management was over worked and under paid.
I worked 60+ hours a week for a little less than $30,000,
so I was making less per hour than I was when I was paid
He did confirm at WalMart it was a usual practice to hire "green card contract workers," with or without the green card.
Another reader said WalMart "health insurance is not the best in the world."