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Posts Tagged ‘Marie Diamond’

Alabama Agriculture Advances Plan to Replace Immigrant Workers with Prisoners

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

DiamondMarie1ThinkProgress has been reporting on the catastrophic economic consequences of Alabama’s harshest-in-the-nation immigration law. Undocumented workers are the backbone of Alabama’s agriculture industry, and their exodus has already created a labor shortage in the state. Farmers say crops are rotting in the field and they are in danger of losing their farms by next season.

GOP politicians have crowed that driving immigrants out of the state will reduce unemployment by letting native citizens fill those jobs. But they’ve quickly discovered that Americans are simply unwilling to do the back-breaking labor of harvesting crops.

To stave off the disastrous collapse of state agriculture, Alabama officials are seriously considering replacing immigrant workers with prison laborers who they could perhaps pay even less than immigrants. Earlier this year, the head of Alabama’s agriculture department floated this idea. Now, the department is actively promoting it to the state’s farmers:

Alabama agriculture officials are considering whether prisoners can fill a labor shortage the agency blames on the new state law against illegal immigration.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is meeting with south Alabama farmers and businesses in Mobile on Tuesday. Deputy commissioner Brett Hall says the agenda includes a presentation on whether work-release inmates could help fill jobs once held by immigrants.

Georgia implemented a similar scheme to deal with its post-immigration-law exodus, but the program had mixed results, with many inmates walking off the job early. In fact, some in Georgia were amazed Alabama did not learn from their mistakes before implementing an immigration law that jeopardized agricultural and construction industries. “It was like, ‘Good Lord, you people can’t be helped. Have you all not been paying attention?’” said Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council.

Replacing skilled workers with virtually free (and sometimes actually free) prison laborers has become a trend in Republican-led states. Under Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) anti-collective bargaining law, at least one Wisconsin county replaced some union workers with prison labor. And Georgia is considering replacing firefighters with prisoners to save money.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on December 6, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Marie Diamond is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org. She hails from the great metropolis of Temple, TX. She holds a B.A. in political science from Yale and was a Yale Journalism Scholar. Before joining ThinkProgress, she worked at West Wing Writers, a speechwriting and communications firm. She has also interned for The American Prospect and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and has done development work in South Africa and Kazakhstan.

37,000 Target Employees Sign Petition To Protest Working Long Hours On Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

DiamondMarie1It’s no secret that to boost profits during a down economy, many retailers have put the squeeze on their employees to work longer and harder for less and less. That pressure only increases during the holiday season, when stores try to woo consumers with marathon sales and midnight openings. Workers are often forced to choose between being with their families or working long hours on holidays to keep their jobs.

Now, thousands of employees are standing up to the retail giant Target to protest the long hoursthey’re being required to work on Thanksigiving:

Anthony Hardwick says he resents working at Target Corp. (TGT) on Thanksgiving and has garnered more than 37,000 signatures on an online protest petition.

Target, Macy’s Inc. (M), Gap Inc. (GPS), Kohl’s Corp. (KSS), Toys “R” Us Inc. and Best Buy Co. all plan to open at midnight or earlier on Thanksgiving in an attempt to goose sales that the National Retail Federation says may rise just 2.8 percent this holiday season, or about half as much as last year.

Hardwick, 29…began the petition two weeks ago on the website Change.org after learning that he and his coworkers would be required to start at 11 p.m. Nov. 24 for a 10-hour shift. [...] “Everyone at work was resigned because the economy is bad and so our employer has us over a barrel.”

Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving, is typically retailers’ most lucrative day of the year, and some stores have begun to extend their hours to Thanksgiving day itself to give themselves an edge. Hardwick says he fears losing his job for starting the protest and speaking to the media. Target has yet to respond to the petition. But as Hardwick pointed out, because of the tough job market companies know that their workers have little choice but to comply with their demands or be fired.

Target in particular has a bad track record when it comes to respecting workers’ rights. It has repeatedly tried to discourage employees from unionizing, and the National Labor Relations Board has opened a case alleging that Target illegally intimidated workers before a union vote.

This blog originally appeared on ThinkProgress on November 15, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Marie Diamond is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org. She hails from the great metropolis of Temple, TX. She holds a B.A. in political science from Yale and was a Yale Journalism Scholar. Before joining ThinkProgress, she worked at West Wing Writers, a speechwriting and communications firm. She has also interned for The American Prospect and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and has done development work in South Africa and Kazakhstan.

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