View From Lodi, CA: Labor Day—As the Rich Get Richer….



Labor Day
is an appropriate time to continue last
week`s analysis of the impact of non-immigrant visas
like the H-1B and L1 on the U.S. worker and his wages.

Readers will recall that in my column

"Look Out Teachers, the H-1B Visa Gang Wants Your Job
"

I wrote that the

Clark County School District
in Nevada had just
recruited

51 Filipino schoolteachers to work on H-1B visas.

The question I posed was whether the district had
considered all its domestic options before traveling
half way around the world to hire people who have never
set foot in a

U.S. classroom

I felt certain that, with the slightest effort,
school district administrators could have come up with a
host of eager American candidates with impressive
resumes.

Laid off tech workers
is but one example of
immediately available potential teachers.

Lo and behold it has since come to light that Teresa
Porter, who holds a master`s degree in

English Literature
and has taught for 14 years in
California and

Japan
, applied to teach in Clark County but was
rejected. ["Experienced
Teachers Spurned Despite Shortage
," Antonio
Planas, Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 25]

Even though Porter was once "Teacher of the Year"
at her Stockton, CA. high school and is an English as a
Second Language specialist, an area of high need
according to Clark County officials, she was turned
down.

Porter—get this—was spurned because she did not do
her student teaching in Nevada
.

As the Las Vegas Review-Journal, in its
editorial "Teacher
Shortage a Bureaucratic Fraud
"
, noted: 

"This is like having

Bill Gates
or

Steve Jobs
show up offering to teach a course in
entrepreneurship at the local business college, and
telling them, `Sorry, you never did complete all your
required semesters of gym class in high school, did
you?`"

The irony is that the Filipino teachers didn`t do
their student teaching in Nevada either. Nevertheless,
the Clark County School District was clever enough to
find away around that roadblock for the Filipinos.

But it was unwilling to do the same for Porter.

The net result is that 51 teaching jobs are gone.
Americans will

not be able to compete
for those positions. In fact,
they may not even want to since the Filipino teachers
are paid less. And the same job for future prospective
teachers is now locked in at a lower rate of pay.

Clark County, by the way, pays its beginning teachers
about $27,000.

This

Las Vegas
scenario plays out over and over again
across America in virtually every labor market…teachers,

nurses
,

doctors
,

software managers
.

Employers scream "shortage"
and Congress rushes to

increase visa caps.
In 2005, it has already
increased the H-1B visa cap by 20,000, at least doubled
the

H-2B "temporary worker" visas
, and added an
additional 10,000 E-3 work based green card visas for
Australians.

Don`t look at those as merely raw numbers. They are
lost job opportunities for Americans.

The pattern sustains itself because an endless flow
of workers comes to the US—some legally and some not
legally. But regardless of the worker`s immigration
status, they can be hired for less money.

In 2004, Boston`s Northeastern University Center for
Labor Studies released a report by

Professor Andrew Sum
titled "Foreign
Immigration and the U.S. Labor Market"
.

The report found that between 2000 and January and
April 2004, foreign immigrants arriving since 2000
accounted for at least 60 percent of all the labor force
growth in the nation. The number of new immigrant
workers rose by at least 2.1 million during that period
while the number of native-born workers and established
immigrants declined by 1.3 million.

The majority of the new workers are young,

poor
and

uneducated
Mexican migrants, Sum discovered.

Said Sum:

"The share of national
labor force growth accounted for by new immigrants is
historically unprecedented."

With cheap labor dominating,

U.S. wages have been stagnant for over two decades.

And not only are wages flat but they have lagged
significantly behind productivity.

Put another way, workers do not share in corporate
profits.

Finally,

the $5.15 federal minimum wage
that has not been
increased since 1997 keeps the most at risk element of
the work force poor. Since raises are often tied to the

minimum wage,
the low starting point makes it nearly
impossible to earn a living income.

At the same time, according to the New York Times,
the average 2002 salary for a

Chief Executive Officer
—the very guys who holler
"shortage"
— is

$10.8 million.
Their pay increases average 6%, more
than

twice that of workers` paychecks.

The little guy keeps getting trampled on.

In 2004, the poverty rate in America rose to 12.7% of
the total U.S. population or 37.0 million, an increase
of 1.1 million people, according to an

August 29 Census Bureau press release
.

The poverty rate rose for one group—non-Hispanic
whites.
Other ethnicities—Hispanic, Asian and black—
remained unchanged but still were within poverty
guidelines.

Cheap labor has created

lucrative times in executive suites
. But it has made
life tough for low-skilled workers of all backgrounds as
they struggle to make ends meet.

Once upon a time, the prevailing philosophy across
American when hiring was, "Find the best people
available and pay them fairly."

But now, with so much

cheap labor
available, the tune has changed to "Why
pay more when we can always pay less?"

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.