Posted 03-14-2004 at 05:00:08
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workers rears it's head again. Only this time, in my living room.
Most people know this.
Married people should not discuss politics with each other.
But Fred and I do. Often. There was a short blip on the news Saturday morning regarding migrant workers demanding better working conditions. Fred and I, as usual, fell on separate sides of the issue, and it got to the yelling point before we mutually agreed to drop the subject.
Fred is opinionated, and biased, and not shy about proving it. I am about as rigid as half-set Jell, soft-hearted, and easily led. We both understand and maintain our positions, and seek to manipulate the other into seeing things our way.
"I sympathize with the migrant workers." I said. "I see a class of people who work for next to nothing, and come here in a desperate effort to make some kind of income."
"Well then, they should be tickled to death to have the work, and be happy with what they can get. They may make less, but they pay less too." Says Fred.
"They live in their cars more often than not," I say "and roam from one end of the country to the other, doing work that many Americans turn their noses up at. They are nomads, and as a result have no address, so they have no stability."
"Yeah," he says, "which gives them the opportunity to skip out on rent, and leave places in a wreck."
"Well," I say, "if they weren't forced to live fourteen people to a one bedroom apartment, maybe they wouldn't leave it in such a mess. They don't speak English and don't understand our customs or our laws. I can't help but think that it can't be a happy existence."
"It must be happy enough, they come in droves." He asserts. "Besides, living fourteen to one place saves on rent, and puts no one in a position of responsibility as regards the good of the property."
"Well when you're living on fifty bucks a day, and trying to support three kids and a wife who may or may not be able to pick oranges, saving money on rent becomes a necessity. Besides, few people will rent to them anyway, because they can't sign a lease!"
"Mmm..hmmm. Very convenient. Look, they know what they're up against, and I say they do more damage than good."
"So assuming they quit coming... then, who will pick the fruit? Or the tomatoes?" I ask. "If farmers have to pay someone five seventy-five an hour, they won't find any native American who wants to do it for that. They will have to pay more, which will make prices of produce go up."
"The prices are already up! We may pay less for produce but we pay more for insurance, taxes and hospital bills to cover for people like them who run out and leave unpaid bills!"
Starting to heat up just a little bit now.
"They come here many times illegally," he says "and yes they don't understand our laws, so they don't adhere to them, and even if they do understand them, they don't adhere to them anyway! They get away with driving with no license, and no insurance, because if something goes wrong, they merely provide a fictitious name, or disappear. Do you think we could get away with that?"
"But how can they afford insurance, for example if they are only making fifty dollars a day? That is at most, fourteen hundred dollars a month, and that's if they work seven days a week!"
"They have every opportunity to make more than fifty dollars a day. All they have to do is come into the country legally, learn to speak English get a decent good paying job, and pay a regular rent and taxes like the rest of us! We have to pay taxes, why shouldn't they?!"
"But then..." timidly I go back to my original question, "if they do all that, they can't afford to make a living picking the oranges any better than we could. It doesn't pay enough. So who will pick the oranges?"
"Look, if we have to pay more to get the fruit picked, then we pay more. I would a lot rather do that than be robbed on taxes and at the hospital where you have to pay twelve dollars for an aspirin because these people don't pay their bills. You don't understand! It all comes out of the little guy's pockets in the long run!" He patted his wallet for emphasis.
"All I'm saying is that I agree that they should have better living conditions, and I'm surprised at you, your parents were migrant workers for years until your father started driving a truck. It's a hard scrabble, miserable life, and you didn't settle down in one place until you were six years old."
"So? I bet they never skipped out on a rent or left a place in shambles!"
"But things were different back then. A farmer could provide a place for pickers to bed down at the end of the day without paying exorbitant insurance rates."
"Or worrying about someone walking away with everything he owned!" He shot back.
We had reached the critical stopping point. There was no way we were going to reach agreement and years of experience indicated that two hard-headed people are destined to disagree on some points and that's just the way it is. The important thing is, when we get to the polls we'll both be voting for the same guy for whatever our individual reasons may be. I guess that's as good as it gets.