Racism goes unchallenged on the Guardian’s flagship readers comments site
At 11.04 pm kristinezkochanski, a contributor since early September 2014, posted, among other things, the following piece of racism about the immigrant building workers in the UK:
I am not a liberal lefty on this issue I have seen for myself how immigration has affected the building trade. Immigrants will work for shiny buttons & H&S is just blown into the wind. They will sleep 4 to a room & undercut British workers who demand better working practices & living conditions.
Not one of the regular vehemently anti-racist, pro-trade union posters challenged her.
Seven readers recommended her post and two Hootsmoneditor and Leopold1904 defended her with the former posting:
“Shiny buttons” was an obvious metaphor for the low wages which immigrants, including white East Europeans eagerly accept.
Which term would Hootsmoneditor use instead of racist, when describing all immigrants or immigrants in general, as working for “shiny buttons”?
So is that all immigrants she is describing, every single one of them, including these, who represent just a tiny number from the millions who over the years have played their part in the trade union movement?
Much has been written about the garment trade that dominated the East End labour market, first for Jewish immigrants and later for Bangladeshis. We know of their struggles to unionise and demand a living wage, the strikes for a 12-hour day with two breaks, and the craft-union style battles between different grades of workers. In this account, meticulously researched from both English and Yiddish sources, Larry Wayne has shone a light on the conditions and campaigns of a different set of workers forced to work even longer hours for less pay in equally torrid and cramped working conditions, while the tailors sweated.
These were the bakers who, despite the constraints of working within small family-based firms, managed to create a union – the London Jewish Bakers Union. Though small in size and stature, it outlived other Jewish trade unions in Britain by many years. Its total membership rarely exceeded 150 individuals at any one time, but it fought continuously to ameliorate and challenge the exploitation of its members.
That’s why it is so good to see British trade unions travelling to Poland to recruit jobseekers even before they leave for this country, producing union literature in Polish and appointing Polish workers to full time organiser positions. Unity between British and immigrant workers is the only guarantee that employers can be forced to maintain decent wages for all.
Do these describe immigrant workers who “eagerly accept” kristinezkochanski’s shiny buttons?