shopify analytics tool

Nativists threatened by success

Alt-Right Nativists Launch Witch Hunt Against Chobani Yogurt Founder For Helping Refugees

Ulukaya, a Muslim, is the kind of immigrant success story that has Made America Great – Again and Again and Again. He came as a student in the 1990s to New York from a Turkish town near Syria. But within a few years, he started selling feta cheese and kosher yogurt made from his family recipe to a Long Island grocery store. His products were so popular that by 2005 he had purchased a defunct Kraft factory with an $800,000 loan and within 10 years turned it into a $1.5 billion yogurt empire employing 2,000 people with plants in New York and Twin Falls, Idaho. In fact, during my recent visit to Syracuse, an old white cab driver who drove me to Colgate University regaled me with stories all the way of just what a boon Chobani had been to local dairy farmers (the company purchases 4 million pounds of milk everyday) and local youth looking for decent employment (Ulukaya pays workers far above minimum wage, offers generous benefits such as company-paid maternity leave and recently pledged to give away 10 percent of the company's shares to employees).

But because Ulukaya is an immigrant himself, even beforeq the current refugee crisis, he had made it a point to hire fleeing refugees, both in upstate New York and Idaho which has a history of resettling refugees that dates back to at least the 1970s when the Vietnamese Boat People started arriving on America's shores. Indeed, Idaho, which for half a century has relied on immigrant labor for its agricultural economy, has among the largest refugee populations in the country on a per capita basis. And Ulukaya has always employed these refugees – first Nepalese, Vietnamese and others – and now also Syrians and other Muslims. About 30 percent of Ulukaya's Twin Falls factory labor force is composed of refugees because, he believes, "the minute a refugee has a job, that's the minute they stop being a refugee" -- and, one might add, they become far less likely to rely on government welfare. He offers them transportation from their camps and special translation services to help them settle into their new workplace. None of this costs local taxpayers a dime. Nor does it displace native workers given that unemployment in Twin Falls is less than 4 percent.

All of this is not just laudable, but entirely in keeping with America's pre-welfare state tradition in the early 20th Century when fraternal organizations of various ethnic groups funded by members provided insurance and other social services to new arrivals, as University of Alabama libertarian economist David Beito has richly documented.

But where most people see goodness and success, alt-righter nativists see darkness and danger.
blog comments powered by Disqus