Why would labor unions support more immigration?

“Supreme Court Labor Decision Wasn’t Just a Loss for Unions” (nytimes):

The Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory union fees for government workers was not only a blow to unions. It will also hit hard at a vast network of groups dedicated to advancing liberal policies and candidates.

Some of these groups work for immigrants…

If the purpose of a labor union is primarily to increase wages for its members, why would they try to increase competition at the lower end of the labor market? (see “Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers” by a Harvard economist for a summary of the literature).

Is the theory that the latest crop of immigrants and their children will never achieve the level of education, skill, and connections necessary to do the kind of work performed by members of current unions?

Or that compensation for union members is determined only by what local, state, and federal governments can afford to pay? That the overall size of the labor pool is irrelevant? (for example, unionized workers in a nearby town of Methuen, Massachusetts just got a raise, e.g., from $157,000 per year for a police captain up to $440,735; median household income in the town is $72,631) I wonder if they are banking on the inherent assymetry in public worker union negotiation. The union members bargain for money that will be paid to them and they will get to spend. The government officials on the other side are spending someone else’s money.

Or that union members are mostly government workers and more immigrants means a larger government and more opportunity to expand the union? Immigrants and their children are more likely to be on welfare. There are 30 unions getting money out of the New York City Housing Authority and one plumber made $369,152 in 2016. As the population expands we will need to build more free housing and hire more union members to administer and maintain the free-to-residents houses. Unions of nurses lobby for increased Medicaid funding (example). More immigrants means more people on Medicaid. How many undocumented immigrants will earn a bachelor’s degree and qualify as registered nurses so as to compete with current union members?

Maybe the answer is that union members (like I used to be!) are better-than-average people and they want to help immigrants out of altruism. If so, why does their altruism stop at the U.S. border? If they simply want to help non-citizens, why wouldn’t unions support aid groups that operate in poor countries?

It makes sense to me, as a graduate of Econ 101, that an employer of low-skill workers would advocate for more immigration (especially if middle-class taxpayers are going to pay for those workers’ housing, health care, and food!). But Cesar Chavez was anti-immigration for most of his career as a labor union official. From ABC:

From when he co-founded United Farm Workers in 1962 with Dolores Huerta, Chavez took a hard line on illegal immigration. He thought employers would use undocumented workers as strike breakers, and that temporary workers would undermine the wages of Mexican American residents and citizens. He even reported some undocumented workers to immigration authorities, Gutiérrez writes.

(He later modified this position, but it is unclear whether there was an economic rationale or only a sentimental one that offered no tangible benefit to union members at the time.)

6 thoughts on “Why would labor unions support more immigration?

  1. There’s a reason private sector unions, especially in the Midwest, are trending redder, while public sector unions are remaining blue. Everything can change though.

  2. What businesses want from immigration: workers but not people. They want to depress wages but they don’t want them voting for socialists.

    What public sector unions want: people but not workers. They love having more people for taxpayers to pay them to take care of but don’t want them to compete for public sector jobs. They also like them reducing prices for things they consume like agriculture.

  3. Part of unions advocating for immigrants has historical roots. Early unions were explictly socialist, if not Marxist. National borders were a tool used by capitalists to keep the proletariat divided. Workers’ revolts in Germany led to the collapse of Germany and the end of WWI. Given the bloodshed of trench warfare on the western front, their attitude was not unjustified. The massive casuslties of Russia on the eastern front led ended the Romanov’s reign at the beginning of the war, and the eventual ascendancy of the Bolsheviks.

    Attitudes towards international brotherhood have shifted over a century, but old attitudes die hard.

    Workers of the World, Unite!

  4. Damn, ALPA can’t compete with that police union. Folks in that town need some pitchforks.

  5. These govt worker associations are not really labor unions. They are leftist political groups, and the Left is determined to destroy America as we know it.

  6. Beautiful, short, on the point explanation from Tony Doe.

    Very interesting video from 2007. : Victor D. Hanson: The 4 Groups that Benefit from Illegal Immigration

    It is only 10 min long, but for anybody who hates video links as me it comes together to:

    Employers, Mexican government, group of Americans who thought they can make racial politics out of open borders, and finally us in the middle class, (when I have grown up, everybody mowed their own lawn, but now we in the middle class have adopted a life style of aristocracy).

    Very similar to situation in Europe. When we eat vegetables from Spain, probably fruit of work of African “undocumented citizens” (or slaves) working in hot, humid air full of chemicals in Spanish greenhouses (not to blame Spaniards, I know how it looks in other parts of Europe). To my knowledge, there are no unions of agricultural workers.

Comments are closed.