My gardener brought in two of his friends to help repair my garden walkways, by leveling the paths and laying paving stones. One of them could barely speak English but boy could he lay pavers.
The younger one was the same age as my own son and they went to the same Oregon high school 10 years ago. His English was good and he’d lived here for a long time. But he didn’t even have a checking account. He worked at a good steady pace.
I discussed the job with them as best as I could with the 100 words of mangled Spanish I remembered from college, mostly “Aqui” with gestures. The younger guy translated for the older guy with rapid-fire Spanish I’ll never be able to follow.
We rode to pick up a truckload of ¼ inch minus base rock. The older guy’s truck had bald tires.
I figured they weren’t here legally. Sure they and thousands of others were fleeing desperate situations. But they’d depressed the construction wages in places like south Texas to minimum wage. I wasn’t going to watch that happen here.
I’d worked for US construction unions my whole life. We knew how to stop it!
I picked up the phone and tapped one of my frequently dialed numbers.
“Hey Mick, how’s it going?”
“Fine, man, what’s up?”
“How’s your Spanish?”
“Say, I got a couple of guys out here laying pavers in my yard and they are hard workers and rapido,” I laughed, “You got any work at the union hall?”
Now Mick, the President of the local Bricklayers, laughed back, ”Everyone’s working. We’ve got full employment. Have them call me, We can put them to work as tile setters.”
The pay would be $55 an hour which included health and pension, with $35/hour on the check.
That afternoon I met with the two Hispanic workers, Mark and Cecil, in my garage to settle up for their paver work in my yard. I paid them union scale and explained that I was a friend of the Bricklayer Union president and if they joined the union they would have lots of work.
I urged Mark and Cecil to do it since they were already working at the craft. They could receive free training and could advance.
I gave them the union’s phone number and told them to use my name. The union president was expecting their call. The union president had never asked me about Mark and Cecil’s immigration status because it didn’t matter to him. He assisted all workers.
Legal or illegal, in China or in Brownsville, we must help all workers to get jobs at union wages.