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Leisure Industry Considers New Idea (For It)—Hiring Americans!
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March 28, 2008, 04:00 AM
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For most Americans, cherry blossoms, warmer days and longer nights mark spring`s arrival.

In the patriotic immigration reform movement, however, we know spring is here when the Chamber of Commerce and small businesses start to whine about the lack of seasonal workers and the urgent need to issue more H-2B visas.

You know what will happen if the visas aren`t forthcoming—beds won`t get made, drinks won`t get poured, tables won`t be cleared and fruit will rot in the fields!

After a while—like ten years—this becomes comically boring to read about. None of it ever comes true.

But as indicated by a recent New York Times story (originally introduced to you by Brenda Walker in her blog here), the Main Stream Media never finds it too tedious to write about.[Businesses Face Cut In Immigrant Work Force, By Katie Zezima, New York Times, March 14, 2008]

Interestingly, Zezima`s Times story takes us back to Cape Cod, the scene of two 2004 columns I wrote debunking the claim that no visas equals no boiled lobsters. Read them here and here. (And hear Patti Page sing "Old Cape Cod" here.)

In those columns, I also uncovered the leisure industry`s feeble effort to find local workers to fill the jobs.

Unsurprisingly, little has changed. All predict doom and gloom. One difference of note is that Times journalism has hit a new low by relying heavily and without attribution on a similar story written by The Enterprise of Cape Cod titled Cape Braces For Effects Of Immigration Impasse. [Google cache version`] By Laura M. Reckford, Feb 15, 2008.

What`s most amazing about employers who plead "We can`t find any workers" is that, no matter what skeptics like me propose, our solutions are always out of the question.

Look at Cape Cod as a case in point case.

  • If I propose hiring teenagers, possibly deserving kids from inner Boston, restaurateurs counter that they aren`t old enough to serve liquor.

  • How about college students, I ask? No good, they have to return to school in August, the season`s peak.

  • Have residents from the greater New England area been solicited? Sounds possible but there`s a housing shortage on the Cape. Where would they live?

  • Local retirees? If only…the problem is that senior citizens, so the story goes, aren`t looking for work and table waiting is too physically demanding.

Get it—the only answer to making sure tourists have an abundant supply of lobster rolls this summer is—to issue more H-2B visas!

This is truly laughable, of course—especially to someone like me, who has actually owned and operated restaurants.

  • Those teenagers—they can easily do kitchen prep, bus tables and serve meals. Let the 21-year-olds mix cocktails. Read these two accounts from Massachusetts VDARE.COM readers who remember in the 1980s and 1990s seeing teenagers work on the Cape at all sorts of odd jobs. (Here and here)

  • And not all college kids go back in August. Some can`t afford to finish college in four years without taking time off to work. Many, lured by the good tips they are certain to make, might be happy to stay on beyond Labor Day. (On a good weekend night, the waiters and bartenders in my Seattle establishments walked away with $200 in tips—twenty years ago.)

  • If Cape Cod has a shortage of affordable housing, and it probably does, let the (American) employees double or triple up, a common practice for resort workers. And anyway, where did last year`s H-2B visa holders live?

 

  • No one single retiree is looking to supplement his income in this economy? That`s hard to believe! And as for the suggestion that hotel and restaurant work is "too physical," that insult smacks of ageism.

What restaurant owners need to do is use the same creativity they apply in menu preparation or devising special promotional gimmicks to finding American workers.

But since enough H-2B visas to satisfy the cheap labor crowd will not be available this year, a glimmer of hope shines through. We can thank, ironically, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Because returning foreign-born workers were exempt from a cap established in 2005 when Congress passed the Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act that President George W. Bush signed, employers could depend the same labor force from one season to the next.

A one-year extension to the original act expired on September 30, 2007.

But the Hispanic Caucus and its pro-open borders Congressional sympathizers led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have blocked voting on another extension that would continue to allow employers to rehire foreign seasonal nonagricultural workers independent of the original quota.

Pelosi and the Hispanic Caucus have made visas for seasonal workers a bargaining chip in their battle for "comprehensive immigration reform".

They figure that putting the squeeze on small businesses will dry up the cheap labor pool and that, therefore, the pressure for more guest worker programs, amnesty and the inevitable "path to citizenship" will be intense.

The bottom line: "only" 33,000 visas for summer workers and an equal number for winter workers, about half 120,000 granted last year.

Cape Cod will receive only 15 of the five thousand visas it requested. 

Cape Cod employers and other nearby businesses, facing the likelihood that they will be unable to get sufficient H-2B visa holders into the country, are doing what they should have done long ago—look hard for Americans who live in their own backyard.

The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and the Cape and Islands Workforce Investment Board have organized job fairs on April 10th in Westport and April 14th in Hyannis, hoping to find willing workers from the New Bedford and Fall River areas, where unemployment rates are higher than the national average.

(Interestingly, the fairs will stress the value of senior citizen employees.)

Additionally, the Massachusetts Office of Labor and Workforce Development will fund an outreach effort, including newspaper and radio advertising, to raise awareness of the events.

Even the Chamber of Commerce (gasp!) is optimistic. Said Wendy Northcross, chief executive officer (e-mail) of the Cape Cod office: "We hope that our H-2B dependent employers will be able to fill slots with folks from these cities". [Seasonal Cape Businesses Target South Coast Workers, by Sarah Shemkus, Cape Cod Times, March 26, 2008]

With luck, this summer, deserving Americans will serve you.

But whether they do or not, you can be sure of one thing. If you want to holiday on Cape Cod and have the money to do it, you won`t be turned away from any restaurant or hotel unless other vacationers have beaten you to it.

I fearlessly base my prediction on the fact that despite a decade of crying wolf not one single establishment in Cape Cod or anywhere else has shut its doors.

And I`ll repeat my 2004 suggestion that to build good will, summer businesses on Cape Cod and other resort communities should advertise: "SERVICE PROVIDED BY All-AMERICAN KIDS WORKING TO EARN MONEY TO BUILD FOR THEIR FUTURE."

Except, of course, that it`s our future too.

Joe Guzzardi [e-mail him] is the Editor of VDARE.COM Letters to the Editor. In addition, he is an English teacher at the Lodi Adult School and has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.