Samuel Gompers and the Tea Party
Remember Samuel Gompers from History Class? He was the founder of the AFL-CIO. He hated immigrants and was appalled at the flood of them into the United States. Gompers was convinced they were undermining the union member wages. He went on to write a pamphlet titled, Meat vs. Rice: American Manhood Against Coolieism: Which Shall Survive?” Samuel Gompers was quoted to say, “Caucasians are not going to let their standard of living be destroyed by Negroes, Chinamen, Japs or any others,”
What do the Tea Party and Samuel Gompers have in common? They both rose to prominence during economic inequality in our country and both squarely place the blame on immigrants.
In Gompers day there is evidence that shows mass immigration led to lower wages and spread the gap between the wealthy and middle class. But it wasn’t the immigrants fault as companies are to blame for exploiting them as a cheap labor force and the laws of the United States allowed them to do that. In fact, scapegoating immigrants makes inequality worse, because it creates an opportunity for corporations and politicians to drive a wedge between native-born workers and those from foreign lands, to the disadvantage of both.
It appears to be justified that immigrants deserve lower wages because they have fewer skills, education and lack a deep understanding of the English language. It is not surprising that immigration is a focus of the Tea Party’s populist resentment. Non-college-educated whites may always be skeptical of mass immigration — and of politicians who support it. Their opposition to immigration isn’t just about race. It’s about money, too.
If the Tea Party really wants to reduce the impact of immigration on American wages, they should lobby for laws that make life easier for immigrants, not laws that aim to drive them out of the country.
The opinions in this blog belong to Tom Knuppel