S.C. company follows law loses workers to those who don't
May. 1, 2006
GREENVILLE, S.C. - Jimmy Orders got a letter from the federal government about
four years ago notifying him that the Social Security numbers some of his
workers gave him to get hired weren't valid.
Orders now contacts the Social Security Administration about every new
As he takes what he calls "extraordinary" measures to ensure that Hispanic
workers at his family-owned mattress factory are in the country legally, Orders
sees a great irony in immigration policy. His lawyers have told him that if he
discovers that any of his employees used phony documentation to get hired, he
should "take that person to the edge of your property and tell them not to come
back." But Orders, 53, says it's hard to run the business without them.
"You've got a person here who's probably been with you a year, they're doing a
good job, they're punctual," he says. "You're not having any issues at all, and
they just want you to take them and dump them out in the street.
"And you know all they're going to do is walk across the street to the next
About 25 percent of the 230 or so employees at his company, Park Place Corp.,
are Hispanic. The business is in Greenville County, where the Hispanic
population grew nearly 50 percent from 2000 to 2004. It is now about 5 percent
of the total, the Census Bureau says.
Upstate South Carolina - the northwestern corner of the state - began attracting
Hispanics in the 1990s, lured by construction jobs during a housing boom that
continues today. They came from California and from Mexico, Colombia and other
Latin American countries as word spread from family to family.
Orders says that the company, founded by his grandfather in 1931, had never
reached out to the Hispanic community to fill jobs, but that he has found
Hispanics to be good workers and pays them the same as everyone else.
He won't divulge his wages for competitive reasons but says the pay scale starts
"significantly" above minimum wage. Finding local workers to fill the jobs isn't
always easy, Orders says.
Only English on the job
The company decided years ago to abandon attempts at operating on a bilingual
basis and uses English only, Orders says. That, he believes, has helped "bring
us closer together" and simplified the work.
"It's a good job," says Jose Coronel, 39, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, who has
lived in the United States for 14 years. But he adds, "It's hard for people to
Deporting all Hispanics who are here illegally "would be a national crisis,"
Orders says. "But the likelihood of that happening is zero."
Orders says employees who skip work for today's economic boycott are considered
unexcused. If any participated in past rallies, he says, it wasn't noticed.
He is urging lawmakers to either enforce the law or change it. "Just tell me how
the game's going to be played," Orders says. "Don't put me in a position where
I'm automatically breaking the law and my only alternative is basically to put a
gun to my head and blow my own brains out because I don't want to be a corporate
Barnett reports daily for The Greenville News.