How attacks on Pennsylvania immigrants are an attack on all working people | Opinion

November 29, 2019 6:30 am

By Maegan Llerena

Worker exploitation has always gone hand in hand with white supremacy.

Donald Trump’s presidency put this fact on full display. Look no further than August’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on Koch Foods in Mississippi where almost 700  undocumented workers – and union members – were deported.

Shared amongst the stories of personal heartache and children coming home to no parents following the raids were stories about how those same workers bravely fought, and won, a multi-million dollar settlement for racism and sexism against the company earlier this year.

Sure enough, the day following the raid, these jobs were being advertised as non-union work. We know that when racism is used to exploit labor laws, as it is with raids at workplaces, it hurts the entire working class.

We also know that Pennsylvania’s Scaife family, particularly the late siblings Richard Mellon Scaife, who died in 2014, and Cordelia Scaife May, who died in 2005, spent hundreds of millions of dollars pushing anti-immigrant and anti-labor narratives to give the perception of support for their hate-filled agenda.

It’s an intentional strategy to make brown and black workers expendable at the expense of the entire working class.

It’s no coincidence the Scaifes were responsible for funding the anti-union Commonwealth Foundation and designated hate groups like the Federation of American Immigration (FAIR).

A recent profile in the New York Times of Mrs. May’s funding of hate spelled out this strategy of how the inherited fortune has been spent to hurt immigrants and workers. The article noted that the aforementioned FAIR broke off new front groups from their original brand.

This includes a research component which they renamed the Center for Immigration Studies and a litigation arm named The Immigration Reform Law Institute. According to the article, the many front groups gave their anti-immigrant views “the appearance of broad-based support.” Of course, these were just billionaire funded organizations, not actual people.

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If this sounds a little too familiar, look no further than Pennsylvania’s Scaife-funded Commonwealth Foundation.

In recent years, they broke off four different front groups all connected back to the organization with different purposes, including The Fairness Center, the Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, Americans For Fair Treatment, and Free To Teach.

The Fairness Center is the litigation arm for the Commonwealth Foundation.

You can see how these Scaife-funded front groups intersect, funding hate at a national level while breaking the bonds of working class solidarity at a local level. Take a recent case by The Fairness Center trying to prevent homecare workers from organizing in Pennsylvania for example.

Why would The Fairness Center sue to try and stop workers who are largely people of color and immigrants from having a voice on the job? Look at its Scaife funders. Recent statistics show homecare workers are the fastest growing industry in the country.

More than one in four homecare workers are an immigrant and over 18 percent are Latinx.

We also know that the Trump administration has been a landing home for people whose work has been bottomlined by Scaife Foundation funding.

Last year, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put out a bombshell report titled “From Scaife to Trump” highlighting all of the connections among the foundations and the Trump administration.

In fact, it’s recently been reported that Julie Kirchner, the former head of the hate group FAIR, is up for a position as the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

That’s why it’s also no surprise that the main litigant in the Fairness Center’s case against homecare workers also ended up in the Trump administration.

David Osbourne was recently appointed to the Department of Labor’s Federal Services Impasse Panel along with other officials from organizations like the Commonwealth Foundation. Home care workers remain under attack by the Trump administration.

It’s time we recognize and state that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the children who inherited the Scaife fortune have largely bankrolled the political climate we find ourselves in today. From Scaife to Trump, from FAIR to The Fairness Center, from Mississippi’s Koch Foods raids to the Berks Detention facility in Pennsylvania, it’s an intentional strategy of worker exploitation through white supremacy.

Maegan Llerena is the executive director of Make the Road PA, an immigrant advocacy group with offices in Allentown, Philadelphia and Reading, Pa. 

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