Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Meg Whitman's Mexican Problem

By now we've all heard poor little rich girl Meg Whitman complaining about how mean old Jerry Brown is making her look bad. "I didn't know that my house keeper was not legally allowed to be in the states. How could I know? I'm not ICE.I used a service, the maid had a social security number..."


But let's take Ms. Whitman at face value. Let's assume that 1). she believed that her housekeeper, Nicky Santillan, was here legally, 2). that Whitman, a billionaire with political ambitions, didn't do a background check on a person who would have unfettered access to her home on a regular basis, and 3). both she and her husband managed to miss the letters from the feds telling them that Ms. Santillan's documents weren't right. If all of that is true, we still get to see how Whitman deals a slightly tricky problem.

While planning to run for governor, her employee confesses to being here illegally. What should she do? First, make damn sure that this employee is made to feel happy. Make sure that she is properly taken are of so that there is nothing even close to a legitimate claim of underpaying her or treating her badly. Then pay her a small severance, have her sign a document that says that she has been fully paid for all of her services, make sure that all of the taxes are paid and then send her on her way. If Whitman had done that, she'd have been able to "confess" that she too, like so many California employers, was stung by our dysfunctional immigration policy. But that she had treated this person well and complied with the law.

If she had done that, she'd have shown herself to be, at minimum, politically astute, and possibly even honest. But that's not what she did. She basically stick her fingers in her ears and said lalalalalala and hoped the problem would go away.

Let's be clear here, I don't buy for a second that Whitman thought Santillan was here legally. She knew better. She knew better because legal employees (especially of billionaires with political ambitions) demand to get paid for every minute that they work. They know that the employer has more to lose than the employee. But people working illegally have to put up with whatever abusive nonsense their employee dishes out. Make me work 45 hours but "forget" to pay my overtime? Have you ever met a legal employee who wouldn't deal with that issue on the day their pay check comes up short? In other words, not only did Whitman know Santillan was here illegally, she used that fact to steal from her (remember, that is the allegation here).

Whitman is just like most business people. They want cheap labor. Like some, she is willing to ignore the law to get it. In fact, Whitman and her ilk prefer illegal labor because those employees will not enforce their own rights and can generally be paid less than what they are worth.

Whitman is lying. And she doesn't even respect the voters enough to tell us a lie that we could believe without feeling disrespected.