September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Title:Your Israeli moving guys view of the business
Blurb:These days, the moving business in the United States is dominated by Israelis. But since the September 11th attacks and crackdowns on illegal immigrants, everything has changed in the moving business. Some Israelis are considering leaving, while others have decided to stay with the good pay and take their chances.
Body:These days, the moving business in the United States is dominated by Israelis. Not long ago, an Israeli fresh out of the army who wanted to make a few bucks would arrive in New York, search through help wanted ads in the local paper and by the next day, find himself knee- deep in the moving business. But September 11th changed everythingeven in the moving business.
Since September 11th, immigration authorities have closely monitored businesses in which foreign and sometimes undocumented workers are employed. Immigration law enforcement has been strengthened over the last year and resulted in the deportation of many immigrants. At the moment, moving companies are anxious to hire people to keep businesses running.
The most attention has fallen on long-distance drivers. Frequently, these drivers have been detained at police stations while their documents are gone over with a fine tooth comb. There is a high demand for legal drivers with the proper papers in this area. Managers, who fought with their drivers over every cent, are searching for workers with licenses and papers. This great demand gives legal drivers more bargaining power.
Increased bargaining power is a reason that movers, who moved to the United States and have driviers licenses and working papers, are choosing to work in the long distance moving branch of these companies. On the other hand, many undocumented long distance drivers those without papers or licenses are forced to leave the massive trucks behind.
They spoke with us about their nomadic lifestyle, long hours and good money. Many of them hope to find work as local movers in New York, but many also want to leave the profession altogether.
Most of the drivers who spoke with us insisted that we not use their full names or the names of the companies they work for. The drivers come from diverse backgrounds and while they all hope to make some money, they have very different life goals. The life of a long distance driver is an exhausting one that requires long hours and days and months away from home.
To be a mover now is absurd, said Leor, who has since left the long distance branch of his company. Its great to be a long distance driver and save a lot of money. Its just that since September 11th, it has become dangerous on the roads. Anyone who travels without papers or anyone who runs into the immigration authorities is committing suicide. At first, I thought like everybody else did, that the stories were exaggerated and that it would not happen to me. But after I was detained by the INS, and by a miracle was able to get out of there, I decided not to push my luck and return to New York.
Most of the workers are straight out of the army and looking for a way to earn a good amount of money in a short time. But there are also guys in their twenties and thirties who work with them. One of the dispatchers we interviewed told us about an interesting aspect of this story. Many Israelis in their thirties, with or without papers, come to the United States for short periods of time, save a few thousand dollars as long distance movers, and return home to Israel. Most of them do this for a year or two, said Leor. Guys who work alone hold onto their positions for longer. It is really hard work but its worth the money. Its not like there are distractions because youre on the road all the time. You cant go out and eat, you eat only junk food the whole way.
Fuad, 47, a married father of six and grandfather of twins, is one of the drivers who has been able to hold onto his position for a relatively long time. He has been on the road for four years making long journeys, and he has been working in moving in New York for seven years. All of my life I have been working as a mover, he said. In Israel and also in New York. Fuad, a Palestinian, was not prepared to tell us about himself, and does not like to complain. He did not say one thing about the tough physical side of the work. He needed to find work to support his six children. Instead of complaining, Fuads friends at work explained, he came to America, just like Israelis do after their army service. From here he sends money to his family and funds his childrens education. The wheels are killing me, I have not even seen my twin grandchildren. I cant wait to go back home. In the meantime, I work and I have things to take care of here in America. I pass the time and its not that bad, I have a good job, good money for me my wife and my children.
Fuad tries hard to keep up his good humor. He added, A married man could not do a job like this, he would have a lot of problems with his wife If my wife were here I am sure she would divorce me; this is not a job for a married man.
Many of the movers we spoke with explained the various scams they pull on their clients. They charge a little extra for gas, boxes, bubble wrap, tape and anything else they could think of. Almost everybody does it, one said. This is pretty much standard in the moving business. Some of the clients have called them on their scams and threatened to call the police. In typical Israeli fashion, the movers reply, go ahead, what can they do to me? Its none of their business. When asked if they were nervous about being arrested, they replied that as long as they were not dealing with immigration then it was fine.
They are often pulled over anyway. The police or INS searches their vehicles. Even when they find nothing illegal or suspicious, they often write heavy fines for minor things, such as cracked taillights or the mirrors that are not big enough. Then the movers have a very hard time getting their managers to pay for these things.
Fuad says that the police are not randomly looking to detain just anyone. Look at me: a Palestinian with bad English, and even on the day of September 11th, I was driving with no problem. Nobody stopped me or arrested me. They see an older guy, serious, with papers, what do they want with me? The young Israelis are too clever for their own good. They put themselves in a bad situation. They walk into a hotel dressed sloppy, unclean. The Americans notice this stuff. They also fight with the police instead of accepting the fines and shutting up, and that is how something small can turn into a big deal. They come to save a few bucks and then go traveling in South America. The young guys dont see the work the way I do, as a living. Today they are movers, tomorrow traveling or somewhere else.
According to Eli, another young mover, the police are always the bad guys in this situation. They are always the bullies, they are always bad he said. It was always this way, even before September 11th. If they arrest you, they search the whole vehicle and give tickets for everything. There is nobody to talk to, nothing you can do. I always drive with an American who has papers. If we come to a roadblock, he is the driver and I am just a passenger.
Most moving companies use rented trucks. This is not just because it is a wealthy business, but for insurance reasons. Israelis without papers have always worked in the moving business, and if they are traveling in a Ryder truck, there is always a chance that people will just think they are random moving guys and not undocumented moving company employees.
Leor adds, If they ask us, we generally say we are moving stuff for a friend; there are usually not many problems with this. The police are more interested in the truck and its contents than our status.
Another reason that rented trucks have become more popular is that many jobs are based on mileage. The day before returning the truck, some movers take it to a mechanic and pay him a few hundred dollars to change the mileage on the dashboard. So instead of tens of thousands of miles, they only pay for a few thousand.