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RedSquareSmallDark.gif Like a lot of other Americans, I always wonder about people like Arnulfo Martinez — who is descibed in a DER SPIEGEL article, referenced in a second article in NewsMax — as being a participant in “slave labor” while in the United States.

From that NewsMax article:

“Arnulfo Martinez, 16, recalled leaving the cornfields of Oaxaca, Mexico, for the promise that he would make $8 an hour — plus room and board — while working for a subcontractor of KBR, a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton that was awarded a major contract by the Bush administration for disaster relief work. The job entailed cleaning up a Gulf Coast naval base in the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina.”

RedSquareSmallDark.gif How did Arnulfo Martinez get into the United States? Did Mr. Martinez ask about documentation for his employment, question anyone how it was that he could enter the United States while not being a citizen of the U.S., how it was he could be paid from a foreign country to his cornfield home in Mexico and by whom based upon what?

The more these “employment” schemes are exposed, the better for everyone. However, going so far as to deem oneself “slave labor” while being fed and housed and apparently, transported from one country into another as if by magic, reduces the importance of individual responsibilities to subzero.

RedSquareSmallDark.gif I am nearly certain Mr. Martinez understands the difference between the United States and Mexico, that they are two different countries, that they have borders, that the borders have requirements for entry and exit, that going so far as to leave one country’s corn fields at the age of sixteen and follow some non-defined “promise” of employment in another country without so much as…(so the articles suggest but do not specify and I’m thinking it’s because Martinez knew what he was doing while doing it but isn’t talking about it and that he was provided with some sort of employment description in writing that he could comprehend, if not, almost certainly, also misrepresenting his age and perhaps even his identity)…

And since when do federal contracts hire “sixteen year olds” from other countries and hoist them into the United States unawares to everyone else? Beware the subcontractors. But, beware the accusations by alleged “workers” who offer themselves up like bait.

Exploiting human beings is very vile. But, the allegations as to “slave labor” suggest to my read that there’s not only more than meets the eye here, this story, but more to Mr. Martinez than either article is letting on. It’s cache today to lob pejoratives of a poltiical kind (“fascist,” “nazi,” “anti-semite,” “racist,” “slave master” given the recent spate of accusations about “plantations” and “plantation mentality” in U.S. social and even labor contentions), but it’s a disservice to us all that these two articles do not take a very sharp look into the accusers involved.

What about “undocumented aliens” do undocumented aliens not understand? They’re illegal aliens, they’re indivduals without application or otherwise legal process who are in, and remaining in, the United States by illegal means. Point is, they do understand that they are violating the laws of the United States. If their response to lack of responsibility as to engaging in illegal actions is that they’re, then, “slaves” to those who employ them, then why the willing participation? I thought several of my jobs whiie in college were slave labor and nary a benefit did I ever receive beyond a check for about one third the amount I’d figured I’d be earning for my time — a shock to most youth when they enter the job market and see all those withholdings on those eagerly-anticipated paychecks.

RedSquareSmallDark.gif I defend no one in this specific situation, nor protect no interests related, but there is this thing called “personal responsibility” that many — to my view, all — who engage in illegal immigration consistently attempt to avoid. They make choices, they take actions, and when those are to engage in illegal actions, they’re responsible for their choices. If they’re coerced, forced to submit to someone’s demand for service, that’s true victimization and the coercer, one applying force, is a criminal.

But, I don’t read here that Mr. Martinez was found in his cornfield in Mexico and taken by force into the United States where he was forced to labor without options to depart at any time of his dislike for the conditions he experienced — which would describe actual slave labor, not the imagined kind.

RedSquareSmallDark.gif No, Mr. Martinez seems to have made a willing effort to depart the cornfield in Mexico and find that “promise that he would make $8 an hour, plus room and board,” to willingly participate (by whatever means necessary, I wonder, although, again, the articles don’t specify). And I still think he lied about his age to do so, among almost certainly other self identifying aspects. Never underestimate the lengths to which some will go to impune organizations such as Halliburton — while it almost certainly is not sixteen year olds in cornfields in Mexico, it just might be “subcontractors” otherwise. But Mr. Martinez and others who repeat his actions every day by millions over are no pillar of self responsibility.

2 C O M M E N T S

  1. -S- says:

    I hope I did not give the impression that I AGREED with the accusations (that this guy was working as “slave labor” or that the employment was that)! If so, yikes! Not so…I take your position mostly and, like I wrote earlier, can remember many a job (my summer job before after highschool and before college was, truly, the pits but it was all I could find late in the summer and in need of earning Fall college money) that was far worse than cleaning up a Naval Base complete with room and board.

    I realize this guy had a bad occurence but I’m also wondering where his parents are in that he’s sixteen, off to another country…where are his parents, then and now?

    Corporations, business in general, will always pay any/all employees only what is necessary to get them and keep them. Eight dollars an hour in the U.S. for janitorial work seems relatively normal to my view, when it’s combined with room and board at that…but the guy’s circumstances, of being left out as is described here, certainly is the fault of the SUBcontractor and not the contractor (Halliburton). I’m thinking that labor has a huge, HUGE interest in discrediting Halliburton. Interesting how this story found it’s way to DER SPIEGEL, as if by magic.

    Seems the incentive for a certain type of attention, even fame, is to bash America. Just look what it’s done for the Clintons and Jimmy Carter, for example.

  2. epador says:

    The employment scheme, as outlined in the article, is nothing new – for centuries business entities have hired from the low rungs of society and placed the workers in situations where they were paid little and charged room and board, ending up owing their lives to the “company store” – a story played out time and time again (I remember a Gordon Lightfoot song about rail road builders left at the end of the line without even enough money to get a ticket home as a recent example). Not exactly slavery. Not by a long shot.

    Like trying to liken the Holocaust to a terrorist attack, equating these odious practices is terribly inaccurate. It is a cheap and lazy way to spotlight attention to the issues. But it doesn’t make the practices appropriate.

    I’d like to see a little more written about the hundreds, probably thousands of third world folks KBR hires to work at US military bases supporting the GWOT around the world, and how their cheap labor makes millions for KBR. Most of these folks I met seemed to be well treated, and happy for the relative good fortune they ammassed working thousands of miles from their homes. Their living quarters weren’t rank as described in the articles you linked. But they weren’t working in the US.

    Kinda funny that there is something about being in our great country that brings out the worst in employers?