It's the lack of labor power, stupid

Doing my usual browsing of the news, stopped on this out of North Carolina about the rising unemployment — and more bickering about illegal immigrants:

Business owners once said they needed illegal workers because there weren’t enough Americans willing to do dirty and lowly jobs. Now, unemployment is nearing 10 percent, and citizens are lining up for jobs they once would have rejected. Yet, some say, many employers still want illegal immigrants.

“They prefer immigrants, especially now,” said James Lee, an electrician who hasn’t found work since Thanksgiving. “I don’t think it’s fair when there’s so many of us in the shape we’re in now.”

Lee, 47, said American workers can’t compete against immigrants who are willing to work for low pay and under unreasonable conditions. And now that jobs are scarce — nearly a quarter of construction workers nationwide are unemployed — Lee is one of a growing chorus who say that illegal immigrants are leaving citizen workers with fewer options.

Sounds like a garden variety “dem durn mexicans!” bit at first glance.  But as always with these type of concerns, there’s a larger point waiting to be figured out.  Check out what the local construction owner they talked to as a representative of the other end of the equation said:

[M]any business owners say that the vast supply of dependable labor that immigrants provided was responsible for much of the growth in industries such as construction and landscaping. Without immigrant labor, they say, their companies couldn’t have created so many jobs in North Carolina.

Now, in a time of shrinking profits, some say those productive and loyal workers could mean the difference between survival and failure.

Bill Downey, a Durham construction company owner, said immigrants have been willing to work harder and more reliably than native workers — and those are the types of workers that employers will keep as they try to remain solvent in a tight market. He said he doesn’t employ illegal immigrants, but he acknowledged that many laborers are in the country illegally.

“When it comes down to the bottom line, more people are going to be interested in good workers than whether they’re legal,” Downey said. “I’ve got a good worker, and I’m going to send him away? I don’t see that happening.” (emphasis mine)

“More reliable”.  “Work harder”.  “Loyal”.  This type of talk, when it concerns a labor pool involving illegal immigrants, is code.  The real meaning is obvious: they’ll break their backs for peanuts and not question the arrangement.  Of course, the reason they don’t question the arrangement is because they’d risk being deported if they did, so rocking the boat is unfathomable for the most part.  Remove that distinction, and you’d have a sizable chunk of labor suddenly able to organize.

We know the process that got us here: fiscal policy designed to promote extreme speculation, conspicuous consumption achieving cult status, and endless creation of new vehicles for spending beyond ones means so as to avoid the issue of stagnating wages (and thus, the lack of funds necessary to do all that consuming).  The ubiquitous undocumented worker helping with all that bubble-based construction so that the owners could skim a few more dollars here & there, only to be scapegoated for a class issue they didn’t create provides an interesting Southern-fried twist to the fallout.

(cross-posted to FreedomDemocrats)


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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