Do Employers Need More Workers?

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The Washington Post on August 24 had an article on the debate over whether employers need greater access to low-skilled foreign workers or whether this would result in higher unemployment for native low-skilled workers. The report provided data and arguments on both sides.

What was missing from the article was some historical perspective. The presence over time of low-wage foreign workers – especially illegal aliens – has held down wages for the jobs in which they have a major presence. This is most obvious in seasonal agricultural work, where inflation-adjusted wages today are lower than they were three decades ago. As wages deteriorated, these jobs became increasingly less attractive to native workers. And, in a vicious cycle, employers became increasingly dependent on illegal alien workers in order to stay competitive.

This cycle may also be seen in non-agricultural work. A study of janitorial workers in Los Angeles in the 1970s showed how employers replaced mostly black, unionized janitorial workers with Latino (mostly illegal alien) workers with a resulting major reduction in wages and the breaking of the union. See FAIR’s report here.

This phenomenon is important to understanding the validity of the argument made by today’s employers that despite high unemployment, especially among low-wage workers, they have difficulty finding workers. At least in part, that claim results from the major rise in illegal alien workers in the U.S. workforce who have increasingly taken jobs traditionally been held by native workers.

The availability of those foreign workers, and the fact that they are more beholden to their employer because of their illegal status, has mitigated pressure for wage increases. As employers hire more of the foreign workers, they become more dependent on them to fill their work crews in the same way that farmers have become more dependent on foreign workers.

This cycle will continue and the dependence on foreign workers will steadily increase as long as policymakers continue to provide increased numbers of foreign workers – as is proposed in the Senate-passed S.744. The cycle can only be broken by policymakers resisting the pressure to open the doors wider to foreign workers.

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Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).

25 Comments

  1. avatar

    All of you guys are so out of touch…….really…………………if you work for a Mexican or he/she works for you,,it is the closest you get to the American way of life….

    Do the same for an Indian, Korean, or Chinese……………………you will not get paid overtime and forced to work long hours, they will pay you with food, and steal your work like Clark said…………….

    Yet you want to kick out the illegals that do good for our system… the few ones that will improve this place…..I say,…let’s do CIR to make sure we pick them and keep them…………………last bullet proof our immigration System so that it does that for the best of the US……

    • avatar

      You know the whole problem, to me of the illegals in this country, is the fact that they are granted the right to break a law. The other, special privileges that break other laws.

      Case in point: Judge Janet Keaton Walker, MA, 2010 had two different cases of death by automobile dismissed because the defendants, one having been in the country ten years, did not understand enough American English or the American system of justice to aid in their defense. No court translators available? One victim was dragged about a quarter of a mile until stopped by pedestrians. I wonder if he had had been alive before the dragging? The other, Obama’s aunt, an illegal, has been under two decisions of deportation for years, still here, and an uncle, also illegal, arrested for DUI and no license went for a deportation hearing but I am unable to find ant results. Some states, and I do not understand the rational , are issuing or plan to, to illegals so they won’t be charged with no driver’s license. Does that mean insurance companies must become accessories? Another law broken? Now, Mexicans are crossing the border at San Diego claiming sanctuary from the drug cartels. This a maybe. No political, war refugees seeking help but help from criminals their government can’t, won’t, control. These particular Mexicans are put up in a hotel, motel, apartment, given two border agents as guards, clothed, fed, given medical treatment, etc.

      We have,what, 14 million unemployed? We need more? Especially need millions? With most employers, unskilled workers compete against themselves and it is they who sent the wages. Does anyone, logical believe that no American would pick crops because it is beneath their dignity? Going hungry would be an inducement. If no hispanic illegals are available to pick crops, employers would have to offer higher wages, maybe, but hunger because crops weren’t pick, would be a greater inducement.

      There was a time, seems ages ago, that we had laws governing immigration. They were enforced. But not for the past years. Why? I have asked repeatedly from official sources as to why hispanics desired special treatment. Sheer numbers? Our northern border with Canada doesn’t have such problems. Maybe because laws are respected, enforced by Canada?

  2. avatar

    Abuses of illegal workers will only grow as long as corporate America continues to be unfair to American workers by being cheap.

    Illegals are beginning to rise up against corporate America by demanding higher wages for home workers. This is only the beginning and I am certain corporations will regret their severe abuses of illwgal workers and American citizens rights.

      • avatar
        Frank Mitchell on

        John: As far as “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” is concerned, I am happy to say that your wish has been GRANTED!

        Unfortunately, It DID NOT work. “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” happened back in 1986 with the great Immigration Reform frequently called the 1986 Reagan Amnesty.

        It had TWO parts 1) a ONE TIME ONLY amnesty for illegal aliens who had resided in the US for several years. 2) a promise to STRICTLY enforce immigration laws and workplace identification of legal residence.

        The first part legalized several million previously illegal aliens. The second part was ignored by Democrats eager for votes and Republicans eager for subsided “cheap” labor (social costs shifted to taxpayers). As a result, another 10 to 20 million people are currently living illegally in the USA and costing taxpayer over $100B/year.

        Now, we want to see some SERIOUS controls put in place, BEFORE any further Amnesties or leniency.

        Fix & fully implement E-Verify. Fine and imprison employers who employ illegal aliens. Deport illegal aliens quickly, humanely and efficiently. Enforce the LAW!

  3. avatar

    Amnesty is easy citizenship that will lead to an undervalued citizenship and further support a multicultural socialistic society for lack of emphasis on (necessity for) assimilation.

  4. avatar

    I have seen active prejudice against native workers in the construction trades. Employers require that an applicant speak Spanish. Workers are often reluctant to apply at shops that hire mostly illegals. –Not just for the fact that the wages will be lower but that they find it is like working in a foreign country, complete with language and cultural barriers.

    • avatar

      In Las Vegas The Mexicans Would Try To Drive You Off The Job Site Or Try To Get You Hurt … They Try To Muscle In And Take Over … American Workers VERY Aware Of This …

  5. avatar

    I’m quite familiar with this issue. What you fail to state is that American workers will not do the same work in the fields etc that undocumented workers will, even if the wage is increased.
    I know business owners who have tried this tactic with no success.

    • avatar

      We already have an agricultural visa program for “in the fields”. That’s not the issue, it’s all the other jobs.

    • avatar
      Frank Mitchell on

      Sue: Sorry, but that is BS. That a farmer cannot hire legal labor at “black market” rates goes with the illegality of his business model.

      To put it another way: If I (employer) want to buy gold at a “reasonable” of $500/oz is it OK to buy stolen gold (illegal labor) illegally? After all the legal market wants over $1400/oz. and the greedy legal sellers (US workers) do not want to sell gold (labor) at my “reasonable” price of $500/oz. So illegal gold (labor) is OK, in the farmer’s concept of the law, if it helps him make a bigger profit.

      There are NO jobs that legal residents will not do for a legal wage. Unfortunately, businesses like to use illegal labor because it allows them to drive down wages and working conditions. US taxpayers are currently forced to subsidize each illegal worker’s salary (about $5/hour) to cover their social costs including long-term costs for their US born children.

      Without the ability to pay “black market” wages and without the “social costs” subsidy, employers would end up paying the “real” cost of their labor and US citizens would be employed instead.

      • avatar

        Frank what you say it is partially BS……there are jobs Americans will not do and are not fit to do that the illegals do…………one thing you missed is these illegals are being abused = Civil Rights therefore CIR………….

        • avatar
          Frank Mitchell on

          John: Sorry to hear that you failed Economics, Business and Logic.

          Are you saying that Illegals have some “Super Powers” that allow them to do jobs that Americans “are not fit to do”? So if the employer offered $1000/hour no Americans would qualify? Total BS. Is that why wages have increased dramatically in occupations with large numbers of immigrants? Oh Wait. That has not happened! Therefore: NO SHORTAGE & no Special Skills are evident.

          What you are arguing for is wages that are depressed below the Legal Market wage. The fact that the illegal wage is then subsidized by taxpayers (for social services) seems to escape you.

          As far as CIR, you will be pleased to know that it was passed back in 1986 with the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Amnesty in exchange for strict immigration control and enforcement including E-Verify.

          Illegal aliens are being abused BECAUSE they are involved in an illegal enterprise.
          People that involve themselves in criminal enterprises are frequently taken advantage of by other criminals and are hesitant to ask for help from the authorities since they are actively involved in said criminal enterprise.

          Amazing! Maybe they should not have joined the criminal enterprise?

          • avatar
            John Winthropp on

            No what I am saying is that you are no different from some of our Congress’ reps……obsolete, out of reality and no idea of our country’s situation……….it shows you got the American Dream for free……

          • avatar

            John: So bluster and hot air are all that you have to offer?

            Please provide something (anything) that supports your anti-American screed. Or is that you feel Hispanic aliens are somehow superior to everyone in the USA. Details please.

            It sounds like you are one of the new age slave owners that abuse immigrant workers, while pretending to praise them. How many underpaid illegal aliens work for you?

    • avatar

      There is no work that an AmericnCITIZEN will not do if they are desperate enough or if the the pay is fair and reasonable. I was in CA in the 30’s and witnessed the mass migration of American CITIZENS coming from the dust bowl to CA to do any job available. Employers can get all the H2B legal immigrants they want but there are requirements on pay and housing so they would rather hire illegals who can not complain.

    • avatar

      yes Americans WILL do those jobs IF..they are paid a fair wage WITH benefits under safe working conditions and working a normal 8 hour shift with overtime for more hours. It is ALL these aspects that he farmers, ranchers, and janitor, landscaper companies, etc. want to avoid paying for, and being subject to OSHA scrutiny for…..to say nothing of avoiding paying employer related taxes. These are the REAL and total reasons why we have such an illegal alien problem in this country!! As a result of failure to deport illegals wholesale..and their passals of rug rats drowning welfare programs denied to American citizens, we have allowed system of invader terrorism the limp wristed government refuses to acknowledge, much less act on…all the while we molest and strip search law abiding Americans in every airport in this country!!! The plantation situation lives on thanks to illegals who are criminals for even being here and a government who winks at it. Meanwhile America is going down the toilet.

    • avatar

      We bring in over a million immigants per year with over half coming through chain migrantion and the lottery visa apparently they won’t do the work either, history will tell you that once amnestied or legalized, (we had seven starting with the blanket amnesty of 1986) illegal’s no longer will do the work. Growing up in Michigan in a large family I did all those jobs and I can tell you that no one will make it a career as they are back breaking, dirty, low paying jobs that only the desperate will do.

  6. avatar

    Let’s transition our Vets into housing and into these jobs. We also need to transition former prisoners to these jobs as many went to prison for non-violent crimes and wouldn’t be considered high risk. Work it out with the Military and Prison to know who would be candidates. Everyone wins. Sending these men to the streets to survive without help hurts them and society. They are worth the investment……

  7. avatar
    cynthia curran on

    There is no doubt that companies hiring illegal aliens has led to union busting and the replacement of well paid American workers with cheaper illegal alien help. Cheaper and more compliant help, because if they complain about anything, they’re fired with no recourse. It’s a known fact that meatpacking used to be high paying union jobs and then the packing companies began an active recruitment of illegals, including actually advertising in Mexico for jobs here, no questions asked.

    It’s ludicrous for the Washington Post to pretend that this is a “two sided” issue. Business benefits from mass immigration, legal and illegal. Plain and simple that is the bottom line. If they did not benefit from it, by being able to drive down wages, they would not be constantly pushing for more. The ones hurt are the American worker, who is pushed aside.
    That why insourcing can be dealt with easier than outsourcing should have been emphasized more even paleo-conservatives like Pat Buchnanan spend too much time on outsource manufacturing jobs that didn’t pay better than meatpacking and construction use to pay before the illegal immigrants were used. The left that likes illegal immirgants likes to blame outsourcing more than insourcing.

  8. avatar

    There is no doubt that companies hiring illegal aliens has led to union busting and the replacement of well paid American workers with cheaper illegal alien help. Cheaper and more compliant help, because if they complain about anything, they’re fired with no recourse. It’s a known fact that meatpacking used to be high paying union jobs and then the packing companies began an active recruitment of illegals, including actually advertising in Mexico for jobs here, no questions asked.

    It’s ludicrous for the Washington Post to pretend that this is a “two sided” issue. Business benefits from mass immigration, legal and illegal. Plain and simple that is the bottom line. If they did not benefit from it, by being able to drive down wages, they would not be constantly pushing for more. The ones hurt are the American worker, who is pushed aside.

    • avatar

      That is false……………………in a corporation that is owned by chinese for instance…….they will treat you like chinese on AMercian soil, use you, put their names on your work and send it to China and last fire you……………there is nothing you can do……………………………

      • avatar
        John Winthropp on

        That is true Joe………………so what does that tell us?…….anybody>>>>????may be you Jack?