2006 December 23 Saturday
Illegal Alien Meat Packing Plant Raids Raise Wages

Immigration agents raided 6 Swift & Co. meat packing plants in 6 states and rounded up over a thousand people. The result? Large numbers of US citizens queued up in line to get the new job openings created by round-up of illegals.

GREELEY - The line of applicants hoping to fill jobs vacated by undocumented workers taken away by immigration agents at the Swift & Co. meat-processing plant earlier this week was out the door Thursday.

We keep getting told there are jobs we won't do. We keep getting lied to by companies and lobbyists who just want to pay less to get the work done.

Swift plants were raided in Hyrum Utah, Worthington Minnesota, Greeley Colorado, Grand Island Nebraska, Cactus Texas, and Marshalltown Iowa.

The raids have created job openings for white workers.

OMAHA - Fewer Hispanic immigrants are being hired to replace meatpacking workers arrested at Swift & Co. plants in Grand Island and Greeley, Colo., during last week's immigration raid, union officials said Tuesday.

Local 22 union president Dan Hoppes said Tuesday that 40 to 50 new workers have been hired at the Grand Island plant since the raids.

“The lion's share of those people were Caucasian,” Hoppes said.

9% of Swift's 15,000 meat packers were arrested.

Washington, D.C. — The arrest of workers at meatpacking giant Swift & Co. — the largest such raid in U.S. history — shows that the government is serious about cracking down on illegal immigration, officials say.

This time, federal agents were armed with criminal charges, accusing some workers of identification theft and forgery, and disrupted not just one work site but an entire company. Arrested were 1,282 Swift workers, about 9 percent of the work force at six plants.

The Feds were asking Swift for employee records in the months leading up to the raids. Swift started interviewing employees about whether they are here legally and managed to scare off or fire 400 illegals before the Feds did a formal raid.

About 400 workers were fired or left the plants voluntarily in the fall after Swift demanded interviews of workers it suspected of being in the country illegally. Immigration officials criticized Swift for not notifying the government that the employees had left. The agency has been unable to find them.

You have to figure that during this time Swift also became pickier about who they hired. So the 400 departures probably understates how much their work force shifted toward legal workers before the raid. Also, some workers were sick, on vacation, or not working the shift when the raids happened. So many got away.

The departure of 400 illegal workers before the raid was enough to raise salaries by $1.95 per hour. Maybe the raid will force salaries up by another $1 per hour.

The United Food and Commercial Workers filed grievances over the company’s interviews, although after the workers left, the Marshalltown plant raised its starting wage from $9.55 to $11.50 in an attempt to fill the vacancies, said Jim Olesen, the union’s local president.

Swift has been getting ready for the raid by raising salaries.

Meanwhile in Nebraska, union officials said Tuesday that 40 to 50 workers had been hired at the Grand Island plant, one of six Swift plants raided by the ICE in a sweep that led to nearly 1,300 arrests. And funny thing — they say Swift has been improving its wages, benefits and bonuses since before the raids.

As United Food and Commercial Workers spokeswoman Jill Cashen told the Associated Press: "They're trying to staff up their plants, and they've been raising their wages the past few weeks."

It's not clear at this writing if Swift saw the raids coming. What's clear is that its upgraded compensation is drawing more non-Hispanic white job-seekers, who made up most of the new hires at Grand Island.

Swift officials tried to prevent the raid and even went to court to try to stop it.

Consider this: Swift & Co. executives have said they tried to work with immigration officials to prevent the raid and that - once they became aware of government interest in their work force in March - conducted internal interviews of employees.

More than 400 workers left the company. According to Swift's general counsel, at one point, Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators asked company officials to stop the interviews - which probably alerted workers a sweep was coming.

So Swift managed to scare off a few hundred illegals since they knew the feds were watching. To compensate Swift had to raise salaries by a couple of bucks an hour. But their processing plants did not stop running. The new salaries are still too low to buy medical insurance for a family. The jobs are difficult and unappealing. Yet they only need to offer $11.50 per hour to get them filled. The argument that the US economy can't operate without illegal alien labor is a big lie.

Here is a familiar pattern: Immigration law enforcement is causing many more illegals to self-deport before they get caught.

That's where a half-dozen processing plants between Worthington and Madelia employ hundreds of immigrants, most of whom are Hispanic.

"They're afraid to go to the bank, to the stores," Amaya said. "They don't take their things. They just pick up and go, and it's hard, because they work really hard."

Hours after the Worthington raid, much of the city's Hispanic community, estimated at 3,500 people -- about half of whom are thought to be in the country illegally -- began clearing out.

After 9/11 more intense immigration law enforcement caused tens of thousands of Pakistani illegals to deport themselves back to Pakistan before they got caught.

Worthington police Sgt. Kevin Flynn said officers frequently encounter the problem while responding to calls or making traffic stops. Illegal workers would identify themselves by their real names, but also carried documentation stolen from U.S. citizens.

"They'd just be real upfront with us," Flynn said. "And the documents they had were actual documents. They weren't forgeries or fakes of any kind. They were the real deal."

By Tuesday night, immigration agents had arrested 230 workers at the Swift plant. But Andrade and others in the community say maybe twice as many workers fled town, or plan to leave soon, to avoid the risk of being arrested.

Tens of thousands of people work in meat packing plants in the United States. They could all enjoy higher salaries, better benefits, and better working conditions if the Tyson, Swift, and Cargill had no more access to labor from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 December 23 12:12 PM  Immigration Economics

RP said at December 23, 2006 2:53 PM:

So Swift was paying $9.55 an hour before they began scaring off illegals. Well, that's about what I made at a Texas meat plant. In 1989. I wonder what wages would be if they hadn't had almost two decades of illegal labor to depress them. And I'm sure there are plenty of politicians who still won't believe it. A relative said this to me a few months ago: "I could never ever support John McCain. Not even for $50 an hour".

Digger said at December 23, 2006 6:54 PM:

A report I saw on Lou Dobbs said that the wages at one Swift plant were $20 an hour and have steadily declined over the years to $12 an hour. It was when he was interviewing the union leader who was actually sticking up for the illegal aliens! That's a union I'd call about worthless, one that ensures that your wages actually decrease as you pay them their dues.

John S Bolton said at December 23, 2006 9:55 PM:

The localities will save money as citizens replace illegals; less on public schooling, medical and general government per person expenditures, more than enough to compensate for what extra the meatpacker pays.
Landlords and sublessors will be the losers, since their taxes don't go up more than their rental income goes up from having illegals around.
It is interesting that raids do not shut these places, and publicity may mean they get an overflow of applicants.

Carl Shulman said at December 24, 2006 1:37 AM:

This pressure was localized to one firm: paying an extra couple bucks recruited native workers, but in the context of a market affected by illegal employment in other jobs. The wage shift, deadweight losses, and benefits to native low-skill workers would all be larger if this crackdown was affecting all businesses in the local labour market.

Randall Parker said at December 24, 2006 7:52 AM:


Initially wages would go up more. But businesses would respond to higher manual labor costs by investing in automation. Productivity would rise. The added cost to production due to a smaller manual labor supply would drop. This would repeat the pattern seen in other industries when those industries faced higher labor costs due to unionization.

Also, a rise in manual labor prices would reduce costs to government (e.g. more would have medical insurance and more would be able to afford to feed and cloth their kids). Prices and costs of labor would converge. Our problem now is that the illegal alien influx is causing a widening gap between the market price for low skilled labor and the real (and higher) cost of low skilled labor.

D Flinchum said at December 24, 2006 8:07 AM:

Let's hope that this puts the "jobs Americans won't do" on the road to oblivion, but I somehow doubt it.

After the raids in GA, the packing plant raised wages $1 per hour - $40 bucks a week - and got lots of job applicants. This may seem like an insignificant amount of money but in a small town where the cost of living is reasonable, $2,000 a year can be the difference in whether a person can work one job or continue working 2 or more jobs in order to make ends meet.

However, $1 an hour isn't "chickenfeed" to the employer. If the company employs 1,000 employees, the company saves over 2 million dollars a year by employing the illegal aliens, who depress the wages of even legal employees. If the company has every reason to believe that the government will look the other way because it has done so for years, then a cool $2,000,000 a year becomes worth it. Cheap foreign labor is a huge subsidy to business interests, especially if they can pass much of the cost onto the community at large.

A few weeks back during the temporary - and bogus - crackdown on illegal immigration at the border by the GWB admin., an agbusiness guy lamented that if we didn't back off on enforcing border security, he'd have to resort to MECHANIZATION. Wow! The nerve of us, insisting on strict enforcement rather than allowing him to continue to break the law!

Well, swell, I'd say. If he buys machinery to replace the workers, he himself pays - and deducts as an expense on income tax, as is fair - the purchase costs (depreciation), the housing, the upkeep, the repair and maintenance, etc. If we allow him to continue to hire illegal immigrants, he passes most of the above costs, plus the costs of educating the workers' children, totally onto the community at large. Not too hard to see who prospers most under this plan.

mike said at December 24, 2006 9:16 AM:

Not that any of this news made Tamar Jacoby happy:

Can you hear the violins weeping?

Carl Shulman said at December 27, 2006 12:13 PM:


I don't disagree with any of those points.

Larissa G. said at February 25, 2010 2:48 PM:

I am sorry to disagree with this article but I know for a fact that the Swift Meatpacking Plant in Cactus, Texas did not have "US citizens queued up in line". In fact from where absolutely no people were willing to go work, Swift had to start hiring buses that would go from town to town picking up people who might not have mobile means to get there or did not want to drive out to the plant, and still they do not have the adaquate amount of people needed for the job. So I am sorry but this is not entirely true. And i think it is very funny that in here it says "the raids have created job openings for whites"; its nice to know that whites are the only people that should be cared about in this country.

Bob Badour said at February 25, 2010 4:09 PM:

Larissa G,

You don't seem to understand that those jobs were taken away predominantly from white Americans by illegal aliens (as well as from Americans of other races) in the first place. The fact that the plant can convince people to work there when the wage isn't even enough to pay for transportation to and from work belies the myth of "work that Americans won't do."

Just imagine all the workers they could attract if they paid enough for people to own and to drive their own cars...

cassidy said at July 3, 2010 3:25 PM:

man people are so ignorant, swift sends busses not only to towns to pick up people, but they go all along the border of mexico to birng in bus loads of illegal aliens, then they work for awhile, and swift calls imigration and sends them to raid there houses, they usually do this right before the workers are supposed to get their paycheck.. and this message is for larissa, since she is too freaking stupid to do a little research before commenting.. the working conditions in almost all of the meat processing plants in america are unfit to work in, they process , 287 chickens, 4 pigs, and 2 cows every second, do you know anything about animals, because to process an animal your going to get stomach acids, feces and blood on you not to mention the chemicals used to kill bacteria, that dont actually kill bacteria as much as they erode fingernails.. do you know that four meat companies process 80 percent of the worlds meat, thats about sixty thousand million pounds of meat a year.. and its all genetically modefied and from start to finish its handled by illegal aliens... get a clue fat, ignorant, people.. this is the tip of the iceberg,

Hal Metzger said at July 26, 2010 3:05 PM:


I'm long retired and from AZ. I used to work for Armour & Company, but not in the Meat Division. I distinctly recal walking thru our meat plants occasionaly on inter-division business visits. During these walk-throughs with the local plant managers, it was unnerving to have the Union members on the production lines tap their knives loudly and in unison on the stainless tables signifying their distaste for management. Such contempt was the normal reaction for these Union Master Agreement workers. I wonder who blew the whistle on the illegal aliens? After all, the illegal alien works for less money. Some of our plants in those days were forced to close due to the Union's hourly wage and its' burdensome overhead. I do not believe too much has changed since then.

Thanks for listening to my nostalgic trip back in time on a very divisive and current American dilema!

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