Abolishing New England: Cheap Labor vs. College Kids
Earlier this week, I received an
e-mail from my friend
Rob Sanchez that sent me into a tailspin.
As the story goes, 700 Cape and
islands summer businesses that “rely” on
H-2B visas to fill 5,000
hotel and restaurant worker jobs will be hurting
because, according to the United States Citizen and
Immigration Service, the annual quota of 66,000 visas has
been filled. No more cheap labor will be available to the
Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce Executive Director
Wendy Norcross (e-mail:
email@example.com), acting on the advice of
immigration lawyer Matthew Lee (e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org), has urged chamber members
lobby for an increase in the numbers of H-2B visas.
Lee is distressed because unless the cap is lifted,
several of his clients won`t get their
cheap labor, and will be forced to hire Americans.
And, of course, nothing is more painful to an
immigration lawyer that losing out on fees.
My blood pressure soared because, as
someone who owned and operated restaurants and bars, I
know that jobs in resort areas as
busboys, dishwashers and fry cooks are coveted by
college kids—and for good reason. You can make decent
money. Even those lower skill jobs in restaurants where
tips are shared can be lucrative. And they are the first
step toward the better jobs of
table waiting and bartending. Best of all for the
kids, when you`re not working, you`re at the beach or on
the tennis courts.
How hard can Cape Cod be trying? A
search for dishwashers and fry cooks the very same Cape
Cod Times job link showed
At the Smith College website, a
summer job link leads students to “jobs at
resorts, beaches, cruises, and other fun places.”
Job openings were posted for Santa Cruz, CA. and Amelia
Island Plantation, FL but nothing on Cape Cod.
At the Harvard website, employers
are encouraged to
post job opportunities. Apparently it never occurred
to Cape Cod to try Harvard. Again, nothing is posted.
Casting light on the local labor
Professor Andrew Sum of Boston`s Northeastern
University reported in his new study “Youth
Shut Out of Labor Market” that the job market for
16-to-19 year- olds is as low as it has been since the
government started tracking statistics in 1948. Some of
those teenagers could most certainly fill the Cape Cod
Sum had a dead-on
accurate analysis of how trickle down works in the
employment market. According to his research, in 2000, at
the peak of the last economic boom, 45 percent 16-to-19
year olds worked. Today less than 37 percent are
employed. In Massachusetts (for the geographically
challenged, the state where Cape Cod is located!) the
percentage of employed teenagers has dropped from 48
percent to 39 percent. Sum found similar steep declines
across the country.
“Competition for jobs
always gets more intense in difficult times. College
graduates take jobs that in better periods would go to
high school graduates. Full-time workers trade down into
part-time positions. The past three years have been
especially hard on
job-seekers. The US economy has
shed 2.3 million jobs since the beginning of 2001.
Job growth resumed in the past six months, but the gains
have been modest by historical standards.”
He also found that:
“There were 3.139 million
20- to 24-year-olds during 2001 who were both jobless and
out-of-school, representing more than 60 percent of the
16- to 24-year-olds who were neither at work nor in
school. Given that these formative years are critical
ones for educational, human capital,
labor market, and social development, keeping young
people actively involved in school and work activities is
crucial to their long-term labor market success.”
Sum concluded that today`s
tight job market is different from earlier ones because
of the competitive element introduced by immigrants.
Nationwide, according to Sum, 2.5 million immigrants
found work between 2000 and 2003.
In Sum`s report, he wrote:
In summary: despite
being surrounded by teenagers desperately looking for
summer or full-time work, Cape Cod
employers are demanding relief from Congress in the
form of more H-2B visas.
And although Professor
Sum`s latest data proves that recent immigrants have
displaced native-born, young adults, Cape Cod sees fit to
fill its positions with applicants from around the world.
How much more cynical
can anyone get than the Cape Cod crowd? In his
newsletter, Sanchez pointed out “The vacation industry
prefers H-2B visa holders but also hires foreign students
on J-1 visas for temporary help (the H-2Bs are typically
full-time permanent positions). Employers prefer H-2B and
J-1 workers over American students because the foreign
workers are willing to live on-site in an arrangement
But kids are willing
to trade “labor camp” conditions for jobs at resorts. I
have spoken to friends who worked summers at
Glacier National Park and lived in the bunkhouse.
They remember it as the happiest time of their lives.
The answer for the
Cape Cod tourist industry is simple. Hire American and,
if you must, charge more for the lodging and food. And at
the bottom of your brochure, in big bold type, print
“SERVICE PROVIDED BY All-AMERICAN KIDS WORKING TO EARN
MONEY TO BUILD FOR THEIR FUTURE.”
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.