Por Daniel Sosa
Benjamin Ward’s mom, Ms. Lizeth, came from Guatemala in the 70’s; after having some part and full time jobs she started working at NFS as cleaner and later she got the supervisor position. When Benjamin was in High School she encouraged and helped him to get a job at NFS as a cleaner too.
Since Ms. Lizeth was a kid it was her dream to be American; after being in touch with those stories from those from Guatemala who were living in the States, she assumed that by being American persons were able to get over their economic difficulties and even to be admired. At certain point in her life she went to the States, got marriage and changed her last name for the one who, according with her, “gave her the papers”. This helped to the new “American Family” to keep a distance of being Guatemalan, an upgrade in the Latin American community and a gap which would keep them far from the Mexicans which were racist with them many times; speaking in English most of the time also contributed to a better life. Hierarchy based on your life “status” is very important for Latin Americans.
Once High School finished Ms. Lizeth’s son took more seriously his NFS job. It was a matter of time for him fo climbing positions since he was very familiar with NFS on the field’s work environment. Once he got his supervisor position he started participating into the “unofficial NFS economic benefit” of budget cuts through labor and supplies reduction. A proper size of undocumented workers mixed with the amount enough of documented was the strategy for preserving the benefit. It was natural for him as well as for others in his position to follow that path, but Mr. Ward had more advantages on his side; Mr. Ward was first generation born in the States, he had an American last name and he had a very American physical complexion, it was hard to notice he was actually Latin American descendent, eventhough he was; he used all of this on his favor.
After 9/11 the use of undocumented workers was very easy; Government didn’t pay a lot of attention to worker’s identity and illegal working conditions were not in the mainstream of the issues to be considered into the National Security topics. Using forged papers was not very important before, but from now on it was going to be important, therefore others strategies were applied by persons like Benjamin Ward. This new situation took out from the game to a lot of immigrants who moved by the inertia of the problem gathered in the streets and participated on important public street marches in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and Houston. This would continue and would make the problem harder. Nevertheless persons like Mr. Ward knew that the biggest ally for him taking advantage of the immigrant situation was anonymity, reason of why he just waited and quietly change the strategy.
If the problem was the identity, well, let’s address the problem. Suddenly subcontractors appeared and were integrated as others participant of the network which needed to be paid in order to be able to lease the responsibility of hiring and by which the big companies could elude their responsibility in case those hiring were illegally based. This was a satisfactory solution for all the involved: Government could have control of those who were hiring by source –subcontractors needed to be starters most of the time registered as labor outsourcing companies and paying taxes to operate- without affecting the big corporations, which meant a big reduction of resources applied to take care of the situation person by person, besides now the possibility of quick big immigrant network dismantling if necessary by attacking this new sources was open, which could be used for National Security purposes or even political purposes in some cases, Corporation could “hire” without facing those responsibilities coming from not doing it according with the law, and those like Mr. Ward who were taking advantage of the situation could continue doing it as long as they do it quietly.
Was this NFS “parallel and unofficial NFS benefit structure” strong enough for covering this new situations? Let’s explore some numbers for getting the answer. A building with 26th floors having a regular market size of 22,000 square feet (sqft) for each floor was providing to NFS the monthly revenue of $ 34,320.00 dollars; from it 40% which is $ 13,738.00 were identified as the Corporate’s profit, and 60% which is $ 20,592.00 as the account’s cost –money already spent and no more considered as existent- which will cover labor and supplies. But from those $ 20,590.00 positions like project supervisor –the one Mr. Ward had- could still get 75%, which is $ 15,444.00 dollars, they could do it by exploiting accounts labor substantially diminishing the work environment quality under activities such forcing some workers to work from 12 to 18 hours daily including Saturdays and Sundays, not giving them any kind of holyday, providing them the less possible equipment they could give in order to perform their activity, forcing them to buy their own equipment which was going to be used in the companies accounts and rewarding it by selling them ideas of making them participants into other more convenient businesses at the future or giving hem references so they can buy from their own money pickups which were going to be used for the company later, firing them in the case they miss a day for being sick (they needed to attend to work even if they were sick), forcing them to be available 24 hours per day 7 days per week winning the minimum for doing it, etcetera.
The total amount per year persons like Mr. Ward were getting from a regular building like the one exposed in the previous example was $ 185,328 dollars, which were not reported neither to the Corporate nor to any taxation authority because it was considered for both of them already spent and already included into taxation. This means a loss of more of $ 50,000.00 dollars for the IRS just for one account; a project supervisor uses to have more than 10 accounts in charge, if that person could apply the model for five buildings he/she would have an extra revenue of $ 185,328.00 x 5 = $ 926,640.00 dollars meaning a loss of more than $ 270, 000 dollars for the IRS. In a regular NFS business area four project supervisors were in charge, so potentially $ 3,706,560 dollars were gotten by following the model, making loss more than $ 1,100,000.00 dollars to the IRS just in that business area, NFS had more than 7 business areas just in Houston at that time. Was this model replicable in the other major cities NFS had operations –LA, Chicago, New York, Dallas, etc.-? If the answer is positive, we have an almost 0.5 billion dollars based on immigrant exploitation black market in just one of this field’s National companies. No wonder why it was very important to have a strong Latin American community in every market NFS decided to cover.
Now it is easy to understand how persons like Mr. Ward could bride his bosses and pay to subcontractors, and still to get profit from the situation. But another factor started to play a role also; this unconsidered money since it was out of any formal radar eventually was the ideal to bride, since it was out of the radar, it was perfect for being the money to use to pay those client’s decision makers positions in order to obtain new accounts, and gradually it was used under those purposes too.