Monday, February 15, 2010
Jobs Americans won't do?
Once again I got treated to such nonsensical gems as "there are some jobs Americans just won't do" as an explanation of why there are illegal immigrants washing dishes in restaurants, working in meatpacking plants, and hanging drywall. What never gets mentioned is why Americans won't do those jobs, which is that most Americans (even the tinfoil hat types) aren't willing to work for less than a legal minimum wage, tolerate unpaid overtime, or take a chance on doing a dangerous job without the assurance that if the worst happens, at least there's worker's compensation insurance as a safety net.
The truth is that there have always been people quite willing to do the work that gets described as being so beyond the pale for the average American. Someone with a comfortably white collar middle to upper middle class background might not be able to imagine anyone who's a native English speaker being willing to get his or her hands dirty in exchange for a paycheck, but people do it all the time. This country is full of people who work as mechanics, waitresses, carpenters, truck drivers, . . . you name it. Still, there was some ass on C-SPAN, someone who was ostensibly on the liberal side of the political spectrum, who went on at great length about jobs like hotel maid and waitress and bus driver all needing to be done, but Americans being unwilling to do them. What he actually meant, of course, that he personally would never consider taking a job that required him to actually sweat, so why would anyone else? His idea, based on his tacit assumption that every other US citizen is exactly like him in wants, desires, and opportunities, was to liberalize immigration policy to ensure a steady supply of dishwashers.
I've got a better idea. How about cracking down on the employers who hire undocumented workers, violate labor law by paying subminimum wages, and commit tax fraud when they pay cash under the table instead of actual wages? We've got some pretty high unemployment rates in this country -- if people are willing to humiliate themselves by donning blue vests and welcoming customers to Walmart, they're also more than willing to clean hotel rooms, empty trash, wash dishes, or hang dry wall if they are paid a legal wage.