Central-American immigrants became an increasingly large percentage of the workforce in the mid-1980s. Immigrants would work lower-income, low-mobility, blue-collar/manual labor jobs that required little education, training, English ability, or verification of legal status. These jobs were often easy to acquire through networking, however, working conditions were tough and workers were often subject to abuses and discrimination by their employers and supervisors. This time period was marked by a decline in union membership as per the policies of President Ronald Reagan, and, thus, employers were able to get away with more abuses towards their workers.
In fact, many labor unions were anti-immigration, as they were focused on preserving the jobs of those who were already in a labor union. Central- American immigrants were less likely to be organized in a union, as many Central-American immigrants were only working temporarily. Central Americans had a high employment rate compared to the rest of the US population, however, these jobs were mostly unskilled and offered little protections.
As mentioned in the previous chapter, there was a tension between Mexican-American immigrants and Central-American immigrants. Many Central-American immigrants felt that Mexican-Americans were “arrogant,” and treated better by their employers than Central-American immigrants. Mexican-American immigrants were more likely to be proficient in the English language and, thus, were more likely to be promoted.
Immigrants working in the garment industry were not likely to see much of the fruits of their labor. Even though the laborers produced the product, less than 5% of the profits went to the workers who manufactured said product through their labor.
This is yet another example of how immigrants were exploited by corporations not only since the 1970s, but throughout history as well.
Groups such as CHIRLA organized to promote better working conditions for immigrants as well as to establish higher wages. Labor unions eventually stopped ignoring Central-American immigrants and hired them as organizers. This solidarity between Latinos has resulted in better working conditions, higher wages, and reducing exploitation of immigrants. While fighting between Latinos only benefited the employers, whites, shareholders, and capitalist ruling class, solidarity and unity has been able to yield results. Certainly, oppression still exists to this day of Latino workers, but as society recognizes the impact Latino workers have on the economy, when organized, Latinos can demand better treatment and demand more compensation for the products that were created by their labor.