Letter for Monday, November 5, 2018

Immigrant workers have contributed much

While President Trump whips up rage among his supporters over the desperate, 2,000-mile walk of Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty and seeking asylum, it is time to be reminded of a few important contributions made by immigrant workers that all working people have benefited from.

Chicago in the late 1880s saw the birth of the national movement for the eight-hour day. Industrial laborers, like those who butchered and processed livestock in the Chicago stockyards, were working 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, for $1.50 a day. Some were even putting in 100-hour work weeks. Workers were demanding eight hours of work at livable wages, eight hours for sleep and eight hours to raise their families and leisure time.

Work done over eight hours a shift, or an accumulated weekly of 40 hours, would be considered “overtime pay.” This battle won by unions in October 1940 is now the law of the land. In Chicago this struggle was led by immigrant labor (Germans, Czechs and Irish).

Fast-forward to today in Hawaii and much of America, wages have flattened out and haven’t kept up with inflation. This has forced many of us to work two or more jobs. Let’s give credit to striking Filipina housekeepers like Nerissa Acdal of Local 5 (as reported by Star-Advertiser columnist Lee Cataluna on Oct. 10) on Oahu, who have rallied around the sensible slogan, “One Job Should Be Enough!” Nerissa’s husband works seven days a week. Sixty-five percent of Hawaii hotel workers are Filipino immigrants and over half are women. Since Hawaii’s plantation era and the industrial development of America, immigrant workers have been in the forefront of positive economic and social change.

Or take the nationwide fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage, first led by East Indian immigrant Kshama Sawant of Seattle. The federal minimum wage hasn’t gone up in over 10 years, but her early leadership and activism on this basic survival issue has forced it into the spotlight.

The movement has even influenced Gov. David Ige to say that if re-elected he will support a $15 minimum hourly wage in Hawaii.

Working people of all backgrounds should unite and fight for a better society for all.

Raymond Catania, Lihue

  1. ruthann jones November 5, 2018 4:02 am Reply

    Raymond…thank you for your wise words, compassionate too!
    Everyone, please vote.

  2. gordon oswald November 5, 2018 4:20 am Reply

    What a bunch of crap. Stupid letter of the year award! The author obviously has no clue as to the entire scope of our illegal immigrant problem. Nor does he care because obviously he doesn’t pay much taxes to the Federal Government. A Government that is spending untold BILLIONS of dollars every year taking care of these illegal invaders. All of this with our Obama caused $20 TRILLION in debt as a nation that we are hoisting upon our children. God help us if too many of these uneducated and clueless, but perhaps well meaning, letter writing citizens become the majority.

  3. Jake November 5, 2018 4:23 am Reply

    Ah Raymond……let’s go in order of your letter:

    The “caravan” is an orchestrated mob, with supported logistics (Hmmmm, what party would want undocumented immigrants on “freebees”?????), made up of 85% males, under 35 years old. They are seeking a better life, yet all the other countries they pass, are not good enough (Hmmmmm). You can seek asylum at the American Embassy, or ANY Embassy for that matter. You have an agenda, or are extremely naive.

    No doubt workers were abused at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Safety was a joke, and it was all about getting the most out of the workers. Unions were created for a safer work environment and fair pay. Automation is killing the blue collar worker in the 21st century. You need a “skill” to make it, and not just show up at General Motors with the “I’m here, hire me and train me to work in the plant”.

    What you are suggesting is that we dump capitalism, and replace it with “everyone gets paid an average wage to have cable TV, Cellphones, Medicaid, Section 8 Housing, Lifetime Welfare, and SNAP Cards”……..Oh, wait, we already have that!!!!!!! Please visit a foreign country sometime…………all our minimum wage earners are rich compared to the rest of the world! Stop the madness! You cannot fight Supply and Demand!

  4. Mark Beeksma November 5, 2018 6:50 am Reply

    Yes, immigrants have worked hard and contributed much, but raising the minimum wage primarily hurts the poor and marginalized. The minimum wage simply kills low-end jobs that the poor need to get started up the ladder.

    The strikes in Honolulu are ruining the aloha environment of the city. There are fresh immigrants who speak little English who are making over $20 per hour, working for the hotels at union jobs. Instead of being grateful for the opportunity, they are out on the streets beating drums and yelling into bullhorns to try to ruin everyone’s vacation. As they scare aware tourists from the city, they are hurting other people’s chances to find a job.
    The left wing media does not want to admit that real wages are going far more under Trump than under Obama.

  5. Mark Beeksma November 5, 2018 6:52 am Reply

    correction: “real wages are going up far more under Trump”

  6. hutch November 5, 2018 9:23 am Reply

    Every single one of the examples cited in this letter was a LEGAL immigrant. Why is this distinction so hard for the left to understand? No one, least of all President Trump whose two wives were immigrants to America, is against LEGAL immigration. It’s when people descend on our borders as if they have a right to come in and jump the queue on LEGAL immigrants who are going about it the right way that people have a problem. Repeat five times, Mr. Catania: ILLEGAL ISN’T LEGAL!

  7. justmyopinion November 5, 2018 9:46 am Reply

    Why is it so difficult to comprehend the concept of “ILLEGAL” and “LEGAL”?
    “The poor get poorer, the rich get smarter”. … or is it “the smart get richer”.
    I’m amazed that TGI even printed this uneducated nonsense. Nah! Not really.

  8. Katherine M Muzik November 5, 2018 9:47 am Reply

    Excellent letter Ray! Thank you for persuasively reminding us about the history and especially, the diversity, of the exceptional people who contributed and continue to contribute to the goal of a just society for all of us.

  9. Kauaigrl4life November 6, 2018 10:50 am Reply

    OMG….Wake up….immigrants….unless you are native american or Hawaiian, you guys are all immigrants. If the borders were closed when Trump’s grandfather came looking for a better life he wouldn’t be the prez….hypocrites….all of you….what is yours is mine and what is mine is mine….maybe we should send all of you immigrants back. Yah!!

    1. RG DeSoto November 6, 2018 2:49 pm Reply

      Go back far enough in time and even the Hawaiians are immigrants. Ditto the Native Americans…they came across the land bridge from Asia. You do remember that from your public schooling?
      RG DeSoto

      1. Kauaigrl4life November 6, 2018 9:00 pm Reply

        Migration I do remember…. But I do know that most of the history lessons that we were taught in school was written by the white man. Not being racist but can we believe all that what was written in those history books? By the way…I didnt attend piblic school.

        1. Kauaigrl4life November 6, 2018 9:04 pm Reply

          Lol. Let me correct myself…”can we believe all that was written”? “And I didnt attend Public School”

        2. RG DeSoto November 7, 2018 4:28 pm Reply

          Agree…in general. However, I think a more accurate representation of history is that it is written by the victors. Victors, of course, implies victory; the history of the world is largely one of war and conquering. This is the sad legacy of oppressive states & empires…of which the USA is one.
          That said, there are many fine history books written largely by white men that accurately tell what really transpired…at least to the extent that original documents etc. are available.
          You are fortunate to have avoided the public school system as it is just the propaganda arm of the state.
          RG DeSoto

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