Archive for Friday, October 21, 2011

Few Americans take immigrants’ jobs in Alabama

October 21, 2011


— Potato farmer Keith Smith saw most of his Hispanic workers leave after Alabama’s tough immigration law took effect, so he hired Americans. It hasn’t worked out: They show up late, work slower than seasoned farm hands and are ready to call it a day after lunch or by midafternoon. Some quit after a single day.

In Alabama and other parts of the country, farmers must look beyond the nation’s borders for labor because many Americans simply don’t want the backbreaking, low-paying jobs immigrants are willing to take. Politicians who support the law say over time more unemployed Americans will fill these jobs. They insist it’s too early to consider the law a failure, yet numbers from the governor’s office show only nominal interest.

“I’ve had people calling me wanting to work,” Smith said. “I haven’t turned any of them down, but they’re not any good. It’s hard work, they just don’t work like the Hispanics with experience.”

Alabama passed its law in June and it was immediately challenged by the Obama administration as it has been in other states. Unlike those states’ measures, Alabama’s law was left largely in place while challenges played out in court, frightening Hispanics and driving many of them away.

The agriculture industry suffered the most immediate impact. Farmers said they will have to downsize or let crops die on the vine. As the season’s harvest winds down, many are worried about next year.

In south Georgia, Connie Horner has heard just about every reason unemployed Americans don’t want to work on her blueberry farm. It’s hot, the hours are long, the pay isn’t enough and it’s just plain hard.

“You can’t find legal workers,” Horner said. “Basically they last a day or two, literally.”

Horner, who runs an 8-and-a-half-acre organic blueberry farm, said she tried to use the government’s visa program to hire foreign workers, but it was too costly and time consuming.

She plans to stop growing organically and start using a machine to pick the berries.

“I did everything I possibly could to be legal and honest and not part of the problem,” Horner said. “Morally, I can’t knowingly hire illegal workers.”

Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican who signed the law, started a program last week to help businesses, particularly farmers, make up for the lost labor. So far, about 260 people interested in temporary agricultural jobs have signed up. About three dozen of them have been hired, said Tara Hutchison, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations. She didn’t know whether any had quit.

Sen. Scott Beason, a Republican, said he has received several emails and phone calls from people thanking him for helping them get jobs. He described one getting promoted from a part-time job with no benefits to a full-time job with benefits because some other immigrant workers left. He said none of the workers who thanked him have wanted to talk to the media.

“They are paranoid of publicity. They are like, ‘I don’t want to get shredded up like y’all are.’ ... I really can’t blame them,” he said.

Over the past two weeks, The Associated Press has reached out to the governor’s office and other officials to provide the names of Alabama residents who have taken immigrant jobs. Either they were not made available, or didn’t want to speak publicly.

Brent Martin, an Alabama resident, started working on a tomato farm in an area northeast of Birmingham after the law was passed. On Thursday, he and two other Americans were clearing about 24,000 tomato stakes off a 4-acre plot. He said few Americans would stick with it.


sarahlaura 6 years, 3 months ago

You can always throw in a few tough questions to ensure they are knowledgeable. One popular one we came across was to ask for an explanation of Google Places Optimization and how they achieved this service.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 3 months ago

Good points. The result of most of the KKKobach inspired laws will be rotting food, higher prices for groceries, restaurant meals and hotel services. The concept that "them illegals" are stealing 'Merican jobs" and that the local high school dropouts will sweat in the fields for low pay is a fiction, just like his hunt for illegally voting unicorns. Hope the Feds can keep the brakes on Alabama and help them get past their folly.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

Maybe they could secede from the Union again and reinstitute slavery.

Or bring back the vagrancy laws that allowed local sheriff's offices to supply farms, mines and factories with cheap workers for "rehabilitation" purposes.

The South has always been good at finding ways to exploit workers. I'm sure they'll get this straightened out.

voevoda 6 years, 3 months ago

Unfree labor isn't cheap. The costs of trial, incarceration, and guarding while prisoners work fall on the taxpayers. It's cheap only for the businesses who hire prison labor, because they pay the government a pittance compared to the cost of free labor. So convict labor is a form of government subsidy to private business.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

What thing we can be certain of-- your posts will never morph into anything resembling a representation of rational thinking.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

tomatogrower 6 years, 3 months ago

FHNC, there have been a lot of history since then. Sorry you dropped out before you got to the 20th century.

False, No, Cant - these conservatives love negativity, don't they. And Cato the Elder, a man who was a bit of a demagogue, used by a supposed Libertarian? Weird

voevoda 6 years, 3 months ago

And at one time the Republican Party advocated change, civil rights, and patriotism.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 2 months ago

The South is no longer "Democrat" anymore than the GOP is "the Party of Lincoln".

Tony Kisner 6 years, 3 months ago

I agree with the dude from China. Since the repeal of slavery and child labor laws wage inflation has bedeviled the US. I love cheap organic berries!

Getaroom 6 years, 3 months ago

In fact, KansasConscience is absolutely correct from a historical perspective, concerning your snide comment about Democrats and the KKK. You simply have no middle ground as you so often show here on the blog. You are as stuck as the Grand Obstructionist Party Of NO. Once the South broke the backs of Black Slave laborers, there was a time when white workers would do hard labor, but that time has long past all over the country. Whatever you consider yourself to be, you too should be upset that the government has done us all in when it comes to Wall Street. hahaha ain't that funny though?

jafs 6 years, 3 months ago

Perhaps the problem is that the work is "backbreaking" and "low paying".

Joe Berns 6 years, 3 months ago

I'd really like to know what "low paying" equates to in real dollars and cents.

jafs 6 years, 3 months ago

No problem with the "backbreaking" part?

bill_the_kat 6 years, 3 months ago

Why are there no articles on how Americans will not do oil field work? That is much harder, requires more skill and is actually dangerous.

Perhaps because they actually pay in the oilpatch whereby the farm owners want to pay the going wage in central mexico.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

And yet, if you go to most small organic farms around the country where there is a good deal of manual labor going on, by far the majority of those doing this work would be "liberals."

tomatogrower 6 years, 3 months ago

BAA (ooh, another sheep), they would have to be liberals. Most conservatives I have ever met laugh at organic farmers. They would rather pollute. So logically, they wouldn't want to work on an organic farm. Also, I'm told that conservatives always get really good, marketable educations paid for by themselves or by their own parents, so they don't have to lower themselves to menial labor. The sad thing is that only poor people will take these jobs, and they are usually apolitical and don't vote. Some are conservative because their preacher tells them they should be, so when they do vote, it's against their own interests.

gccs14r 6 years, 3 months ago

And how does mechanical harvesting make a berry lose its organic status?

I think in a lot of cases, the reason why migrant labor is used for harvesting is because it's cheaper to use them than it is to invest in machinery. Maybe now farm implement manufacturers and dealers will see a bump in sales.

independent_rebel 6 years, 3 months ago

There is a reason that millions of unemployed US citizens won't work out in the fields on a farm, or on a construction crew, or jobs such as a dishwasher/lawn. No, it's not just becuase illegals will do the work for cheaper.

It's because people are better off financially and materialistically living off of entitlements than they would be working full-time, entry/low level jobs. That must change.

1) businesss owners must not hire illegals. If they do, they lose their license. FOREVER. 2) people must stop patronizing businesses that hire illegals.
3) to receive any tax payer money, a company (think highway road crew, for example) must provide proof none of their employees are illegal. If they are found to hire illegals, not only do they lose the contract but are ineligible to bid again. And why are they ineligible? See 1). 4) make people who receive taxpayer money for assistance pass drug/alchol tests. Yes, I know of the "results" in Florida. What the liberal media failed to put in the headlines was a very high percentage of people simply refused to take the test.
5) stop making life easier for someone living from cradle to grave on the taxpayer's teet, while a single mom working full-time at $34,000 a year can't provide nearly the same as the moochers can for his or her family. 6) stop rewarding laziness. stop rewarding bad behavior. stop rewarding those who break the law, on both the poor end and rich end. 7) let capitalism work...if a business fails, it fails, including car companies, banks, and locally owned as well. If you feel a CEO gets too much money, boycott the company. 8) turn this country back into the melting pot it once was, where people came to this country to assimilate, and, oh yeah, learned to speak english. 9) allow hospitals to turn away illegals who use emergency rooms as their doctors' office, and don't pay a penny. 10) This will take awhile, and I'm not always comfortable with government regulation, but it must be done: create a system where those who are in need and deserve our assistance are taken care of--the elderly, the disabled, the veterans, those who are temporarily unemployed or lost a place to live. As for the rest? The illegals,and those leagal citizens who could work but choose not to yet have the nerve to demand handouts and the spreading of the wealth. What about them? Cut them off. No more free rides. If they are legal and want free stuff, the can work for it by doing community service, and doing it well--or they get NOTHING. Even a little bit is better than doing nothing. Clean the streets and parks, remove graffiti, paint, landscaping, building and maintaining a community garden and neighborhood watch groups.

But no more giving taxpayer money to an agency that won't distinguish between someone who chooses to be a lazy moocher and someone who just got swept off their feet but is trying to get back up. No more handouts to those here illegally. The moochers deserves nothing.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

Yea, right, and the only way to eliminate the deficit is to raise taxes on poor people.

independent_rebel 6 years, 2 months ago

And raising taxes on poor people...that was mentioned by me...where?

Thought so.

Raising taxes on the middle or upper class, is that your solution. You didn't say so, but to those who say we need to. You raise taxes and business owners, small and large, stop hiring and raise the prices of goods and services.

A person does not start up a business, especially a small business owner, in order to have their profits taken from them by the government and then handed over to Maria, Jose, Jesse, Angel, Russ, DeMarion, Destini, and Shaquita, you know, people who demand their handouts and do nothing to deserve them except come here illegally or sit around watching Maury and Jerry all day.

Cutting wasteful entitlements to the lazy and to the illegal, as well as closing corporate loopholes, is the way to go.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, I think taxes on the wealthy but not the (ever-shrinking) middle class should be raised.

And yes, close corporate loopholes. But entitlements to poor people are not as serious a problem as the Koch bros. would like you to think they are. That's just a distraction in their well-financed shell game.

The massive redistribution of wealth to the already wealthy over the last 30 years dwarfs the amount paid out in the entitlements you're so obsessed over.

pace 6 years, 2 months ago

I think you are wrong. Keep giving tax breaks to the wealthiest and keep the jobs down, let enough families lose their homes, and american workers will work for desperate wages, back breaking, and won't require those fancy mancy work place standards. With enough fancy law, maybe the industry will cheat and abuse them just like they do the undocumented workers. Keep your fingers crossed, Americans can be turned to a third world labor pool.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.