Carnivals Favor Mexicans on H-2B Visas Over Americans

Traveling carnivals and circuses used to provide much needed employment to locals that needed temporary work. Times have changed however. Carnivals don`t hire as many local people because they prefer to import foreign workers who owners and managers perceive to be a stable supply of low cost, hard working labor. Carnivals utilize both H-2B non-farm visas and J-1 student visas in order to employ foreign workers — and of course illegal aliens.

The following excerpt from a investigative reporter in Tennessee explain how Americans are shoved aside for cheap imported foreign labor.

Here in Tennessee, business owners told the federal government they could not find people willing to do horse grooming jobs that paid $15.00 an hour, golf course landscaping that paid more than $10.00 an hour and operating carnival rides at more than $7.00 an hour.

“You can`t tell me that an employer can`t find somebody in this country to do the work anywhere,” said union leader Jerry Lee, president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO.
Companies Import Foreign Workers In High Unemployment, by Ben Hall, NewsChannel 5, Nov 18, 2010

Americans are at a disadvantage when applying for carnival jobs because it`s assumed by most carnival owners that Mexican workers are hard working while Americans are nothing but lazy spoiled slobs who are either addicted to drugs or are alcoholics. The truth is that Americans don`t want to be treated like this:

In three booths at last year`s New York State Fair, 19 men worked in conditions close to slavery. They made and sold chicken gyros and french fries for 16 to 18 hours a day with a 15-minute break and one meal. They were paid $1 an hour.

They slept nine or 10 men to one bug-infested trailer, sometimes two to a bed. Some became ill.

They worked like this for 11 days at the fair.

On the 12th day — Labor Day — they worked 24 hours in a row, according to a federal criminal complaint against their boss.
State fair vendor abused workers from Mexico“, By Marnie Eisenstadt / The Post-Standard The Post-Standard, April 17, 2011

The use of H-2B visa holders is very prevalent in the carnival industry as these two excerpts explain:

Judkins [owner of Circus Chimera] said almost every carnival in the country uses H-2B workers, gets reliable help, provides drug tests and has the highest safety record.
Will the Circus Come to Town?, The Paris News, by Bill Hankins, 12/2/2007

The idea has spread to other travelling carnivals. Chris Lopez, safety director at Laveen-based Ray Cammack Shows, which runs the midway at the Arizona State Fair, said a “good-sized” percentage of that company`s workers are foreigners on visas. [Arizona Republic article, see link next paragraph]

Carnival owners are so consistent in what they say to the media about how they justify hiring Mexicans it almost seems that they received coaching.

All quotes for the rest of this blog were taken from the article: Immigrant carnival workers bring strong work ethic, drug-free culture, by Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic, Apr. 8, 2011.

Three excerpts from the article are rearranged because when read sequentially instead of spread throughout the article it`s easier to get the main message. You will probably guess who the scruffy workers are who have mouthfuls of missing teeth and who are drug-addicted, but if you are unsure don`t worry because carnival owner Vomberg is very candid.

It`s a carnival game that, over the past decade, has thrown the stereotypical caricature of a “carnie” for a loop. No longer are carnival employees scruffy, drug-addicted workers with missing teeth. The grueling, transient nature of the job, combined with the drug testing, have weeded out the problematic workers of the past. Most of Vomberg`s carnival workers now are Mexicans on work visas.

Vomberg says he has a lot of respect for Hispanics, but just wait until you hear what he says about Anglos.

“I have a whole lot of respect for the Hispanics,” he said.

An employee came into his trailer with the results of that afternoon`s drug test. Of the eight employees tested, two came back dirty, testing positive for marijuana. They would be let go this afternoon.

Vomberg smiled and nodded at the results, as if they proved his point.

“They`re Anglos,” he said.

Vomberg seemed to be very pleased that the only two who failed his drug tests were Anglos (white people) — and he was more than happy to fire them on the spot. It seems so incredulous that only Whites fail drug tests you have to wonder if the tests are rigged.

Carnival culture involves living this way for months on end. It`s a life that used to attract men who enjoyed working with their hands and drifting around the country.

But Vomberg says those workers don`t exist in the United States anymore. Especially ones who can routinely pass a random drug screening.

According to Vomberg you just can`t find hard working Americans who can pass a drug screen test. In contrast, Mexicans are supposedly very hard working and drug free even though the drug cartels that are causing so many problems on the border are Mexican.

Vomberg knows that, in a nation with an unemployment rate at around 9 percent, people will bristle at the notion that there are jobs Americans won`t take, but he said, “People can`t deal with the truth.”

As they say, when someone is down kick him in the face. Vomberg relishes doing that to White Americans (he is White and you can see his video interview on the Arizona Republic website).

But the biggest change is the end of the rampant drug culture. Vomberg said drug dealers used to knock on workers` bunkhouse trailers at night, knowing they had a willing market. That has ended, he said.

During the carnival`s weeks in Arizona, Vomberg said it had drug-tested 20 employees. Five came back positive for marijuana. “All native Americans,” he said, meaning U.S.-born employees.

Again, according to Vomberg, Americans (i.e. Anglos) are all drug users. Is it no wonder that Vomberg only hires Mexicans?

A Mexican employee was interviewed. He seemed to think Anglos were paranoid because they thought Mexicans were being hired to replace them. Apparently the paranoia of the Anglos wasn`t just imaginary because that`s exactly what Vomberg does:

Over time, that became a valid fear. Vomberg said that about 80 percent of his workers now are Mexicans.

This part of the story is the most disturbing. A circus foreman was ordered to train his Mexican replacement. He refused to comply so Vomberg set him up with a “drinking on the job” charge. It seems that phony drug and alcohol charges are Vomberg`s favorite way of dismissing Americans from working at this carnival.

One stubborn foreman, who ran the nearly 100-foot-tall Giant Wheel, did not want to show Mexican workers how to work the ride. He was subsequently fired for drinking on the job, and the new foreman named a Mexican as his assistant.

“Now our Giant Wheel moves three times better than it ever moved,” Vomberg said.

Vomberg doesn`t crack the whip on his employees backs — instead he backhands them when they don`t behave right. How compassionate!

Most, though, were troubled and stayed that way. Vomberg said running a carnival meant constantly dealing with problem employees. Sometimes words weren`t enough. “I have a right hand that still hurts from whacking guys,” he said.

The following quote from the article was odd enough to repeat:

Judkins hires most of his workers out of one area: the city of Tlapacoyan, in Veracruz, Mexico. He hires only new employees who are recommended by existing ones.

Through the years, Vomberg would bring in more immigrant workers and started working them into crews of U.S. workers. There was pushback, he said, especially over the language issue. “Initially, you`ve got to overcome that mentality,” he said.

Next time you let your children on the carnie ride, consider that the workers who maintain the equipment probably don`t know how to read the English instruction manuals!

Vomberg said he wasn`t worried about his new employees` inability to read English. Carnival workers had a tradition of teaching one another ride assembly on the job. The immigrant workers` better mechanical skills ended up making up for lack of English, Vomberg said. And a drug-free crew makes a difference as well.

The following is an excerpt from a body shop that contracts J-1 foreign exchange students to operate carnival equipment. If your college aged kid can`t find jobs at carnivals now you know why!

It`s a great idea to select hard-working exchange students to fill entry level positions at your venue to handle all tasks relevant for ride operators
“Ride operator: Use seasonal hiring to cover your needs for ride operators!”, Joboffer.org