The Labor Pool of Last Resort: American Workers

May 27, 2008

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-wi-wisconsindellswor,0,351015.story

The linked article details the decline in the numbers of foreign workers available in the Wisconsin Dells region, a popular Midwest tourist area, putting employers in a bind. 

The nationwide crunch among tourist-town employers comes after Congress failed to renew a provision that exempted returning foreign guest workers from counting toward the limit of 66,000 per year.

Well, at least Congress got it right for a change, even if it was an act of omission. 

The article goes on to explain that area employers are getting around the shortage of H-2B visa workers (foreigners granted visas specifically to work in the U.S.)  by instead hiring “J-1” visa holders – foreigners admitted to the U.S. as students.  These two categories of temporary visa holders are exactly the ones I targeted in Chapter 9 of Five Short Blasts as the ones that need to be cut the most, since these are the pipeline that provides 75% of those who eventually are given permanent legal resident status.  It’s impossible to rein in legal immigration without closing the valve in this pipe. 

This all begs the question:  where are all of the American students?  Don’t they need work during the summers any more?  Don’t they need to raise money to pay for their educations? 

I believe that a big part of this problem is due to misplaced values among the admissions people at our universities.  They seem to want high school students with resumes long on volunteer work, and place no value whatsoever on plain old hard work performed for compensation.  And once in college, students are now funneled into internship programs that improve students’ chances of finding ever more scarce employment in decent jobs upon graduation.  The bulk of these are unpaid internships, performing useless busy work that serves no other purpose than providing employers with slave labor and a 3-month long job interview. 

This has to change.  There is a huge demand for seasonal workers in this country that must be met without resorting to destructive immigration policies that exacerbate the growing effects of overpopulation.  And we have the workers to meet the demand.  It’s time for universities to shift their focus and place some value on real-world job experience.  The demonstrated ability to make a positive contribution in the work place tells me a lot more about the character of a student than any amount of volunteer work.  And the practice of unpaid internships should be abolished.  Why should college students be exploited in this way? 

This nation is overflowing with seasonal workers, if only we would free them up from their make-believe “work” and allow them to fill real jobs.