Truly fine piece of journalism: The homeless restaurant workers of Chicago and the midwest

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/17/homeless-employed-chicago-restaurant-workers-exploited

I read a similar piece a while back; that one was about undocumented Chinese/Asian immigrants who are bused to restaurants in the Northeast for week-long gigs, then back to squalid group-living apartments/houses in the NYC area, if memory serves. Surely there are corresponding rackets all around the country, differing only by the nationality of the exploited workers.

If it were up to me, there would be no quotas, but for routine immigration (as opposed to asylum-seekers), a U.S. citizen or legal resident would have to agree to take physical and fiscal responsibility for the immigrant’s needs, and there would be widely-available, and mandatory, ESL education. Going after exploiters like these employment agencies is a game of whack-a-mole; the only way to get rid of them forever is to legalize the workers upon whom they prey.

1 Like

Yes, I saw this going on when I lived in the northeast. I was eating in a mid-range suburban Chinese restaurant quite late one evening – I was the last customer – so when I went to my car I saw a van pull up and kitchen workers climbed in with the van already half full of other Chinese. I figured they must be going to group housing somewhere (just like the undocumented Costan Ricans who painted the suburban houses, or undocumented Mexicans who cut the lawns), but it has taken journalism like this to bring out the reet of the story, about the squalid living conditions (and these people are homeless!) and also the kind of severe exploitation that deliberately makes the workplace conditions so hideous that the workers will quit after a few days, guaranteeing an excuse not to pay them and bring in fresh people to exploit.

It’s like Upton Sinclair never lived and wrote and none of us read him in school. I am not “shocked” that people can be so awful to other people, but just shocked it is taking so long for decent people to become aware and demand – really demand – it stop.

1 Like

Found it : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/13/cooka€™s-tale

Nation wide. And rampant.

I see that most of those immigrants who died were 18 or younger.

These problems exist in Italy too (and the rest of Europe) and are only likely to get worse due to the desperation diving many migrants into Europe. In Italy, perhaps most of immigrant abuse in the food supply is in agriculture, since in the restuarant business in Italy it is a bit harder to hide exploitation. However it is also the case that immigrants are recognized as essential to the Italian food industry and many have stayed in specific communities because they are treated very well. There is discussion of how to expand on these examples in dealing with the large influx of migrants. Many small agricultural enterprises in Italy want to attract young workers without exploiting their plight.

1 Like

Very “positive” article. Thanks for posting it. My primary take-away from reading this is that Sikh immigrants were willingly assimilated by the communities in the Po Valley. And that many of these Sikhs, grew to accept themselves as Italians in the second generation. I think that’s successful immigration.

1 Like

It’s a patchy record in Italy, with some truly outstanding examples of integration and assimilation dating back centuries even, but there also areas of vile xenophobia and exploitation in Italy, and a few places where immigrants themselves cling to original language and community. Every Italian family history typically includes many stories of migration, and many stories of poverty and exploitation, even within Italy, as impoverished Italians moved about from one region of the country to the other looking for work from fellow Italians. So there is great empathy and understanding about what makes people migrants, and in many places, the Catholic Church in Italy encourages charity, especially now that the Vatican and Pope Francis are so outspoken.

Italians also typically don’t make a big deal about immigrants becoming “Italian” as one finds in France. Most Italians would be puzzled as to how anyone could learn their crazy, fragmented culture, and they tend to think in that regard the only way anybody ever gets to be “Italian” is to be born into an Italian family (from which there is no escape)

1 Like
“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold